Too Tired To Drive

The clocks “going forward” this week might seem unconnected with driver safety but in fact there is a link. The whole daylight debate about single/double summer time has for sometime concerned road safety groups because of the potential risk to child pedestrian safety later in the year when the clocks “go back”.

Meanwhile, in spring, the lack of an hour’s sleep over the weekend could potentially leave us unaware that we are a bit more tired than usual before we set off on a long journey.

Experts believe that on average we get two hours extra sleep at the weekends. A shorter night can lead to drowsiness the next afternoon. The IAM believes that up to one in five motorway crashes are fatigue related, although it is very hard to gather firm evidence: unlike drink driving, or driving under the influence of drugs, fatigue is more invidious and less detectable. Survivors are unlikely to admit to driving while tired.

Because it is natural to get tired, there is a temptation to ignore what our body is telling us while we are at the wheel. Despite the yawns and the eyelids getting heavy, drivers are often intent on getting to their destination as soon as possible. The need to “crack on” could mean that drivers don’t take a proper break every two hours. Instead they might try turning up the radio or opening the window so they can keep going.

These are however at best extremely short-term remedies. The fact of the matter is if you are tired, you need to have a rest and ideally a short nap.

A 15 to 20 minute nap while you are parked somewhere safe, legal and convenient can really give you a boost, especially if you combine it with a high caffeine drink when you wake up. You will then be able to continue your journey relatively fresh and alert.

In the longer term the new Road Safety Bill will make it easier for motorists to find French-style rest areas conveniently placed for drivers to take a break. But if you have to make a point of finding somewhere off your route to take a “power nap”, it is worth it.

2 April 2006 Staff

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