Asleep at the wheel
If you’re behind the wheel and feeling tired you are significantly more likely to be involved in a road traffic collision. Many of us feel fatigued from work and other responsibilities but have you ever considered how this impacts your ability to drive? It’s a common problem. A recent poll of 20,000 motorists by the AA has indicated that one in eight admit falling asleep behind the wheel. This comes as little surprise when we consider than one in five accidents on major roads are caused by tiredness.
Do you know how to reduce fatigue when driving?
Be aware of potential causes of fatigue
First, it would be helpful to understand common causes of tiredness. You’re more likely to feel tired during autumn and winter months. This is because of darker nights and colder temperatures. The cold tends to motivate excessive use of car heating systems and when coupled with lack of natural light, it can cause drowsiness.
If you take medication that may cause drowsiness as a side effect you should consider if you’re still fit to drive or not. Before taking any medication you should read the label thoroughly and consult your doctor.
Should driving be part of your job and you find yourself feeling tired, you should raise the issue with your manager. If you drive a van or HGV, you’ll be aware of the driver’s hours laws. Ensure you abide by them.
Take a break
If you find yourself feeling tired do not ignore it and persevere. The safest course of action is to pull over in a safe place and rest. Motorway service stations are ideal when available. Consuming a caffeinated drink such as coffee will help but only in the short term. You should seek to have a 15–20 minute nap. These are often called stimulant naps or power naps. If one is required be sure to remove the keys from the ignition and keep your doors locked.
Is it illegal to sleep in your car?
False - Rule 91 of the Highway Code recommends napping if you are tired. It’s important not to park where you shouldn’t though. No double yellow lines or motorway hard shoulder.
Will rolling down the window and turning up the radio help?
False – This may work very briefly but you will acclimatise within minutes. The only way to reduce tiredness is to meet your fundamental need to sleep.
Improve your lifestyle
If you regularly feel tired during the day then you may require a lifestyle change. Here are some tips:
Find your ideal sleep cycle and stick to it consistently, even at weekends. This means going to bed and waking at the same time every day. Don’t overdo it on caffeinated drinks such as energy drinks and coffee. If you can, reduce unnatural light sources, including phone screens, for an hour before you go to bed.
Don’t drive for more than 8 hours in a day and if you do have a long journey, take regular 15 minute breaks. This is particularly important if you aren’t used to long drives.
If you believe your tiredness is a symptom of an illness, you should consult with your doctor as soon as possible.
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