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STAY ALERT, STAY ALIVE: Route preparation, staying stimulated and taking regular breaks are effective ways of curbing rider fatigue. Image: Shutterstock

The dangers of driver fatigue/tiredness while driving are often spoken about but what motorcyclists riding while drowsy?

Arrive Alive motorcycle safety expert and editor of Bike Talk, HEIN JONKER, shares his insights into rider fatigue.


Jonker said: “Fatigue is identified as one of the “fatal five” causes of accidents responsible for as much as 20% of all crashes. Yet there is very little police effort in clamping down on fatigued motorists. Instead, we have to monitor our own level of fatigue.

“I admit to having ridden tired, yet I don’t think I could fall asleep on a motorcycle. There is just too much happening that keeps you awake. There’s changing gears, balancing the bike, counter-steering, hand and foot brakes. There’s also the wind slapping you in the face, the noise keeping you awake and the fuel range that requires you to pull over every few hundred kilometres.”

Fatigue is a danger to car and truck drivers who, due to large fuel tanks, can drive longer stints behind the wheel in, Jonker adds, “more comfortable and sleep-inducing cages with big lounge chairs to sit in, quiet confines, nice audio systems and driver aids such as automatic transmissions and cruise control”.

Jonker’s top tips to help you stay alert while riding:

TAKE THE SCENIC ROUTE:  Pick a more interesting route than the highway.

HJ said: “Take back roads and winding routes that require more mental input, more steering, more gear changes and more brake applications. They also contradict the use of cruise control, if you happen to have it on your bike”.

Words by:
Hein Jonker, editor of BikeTalk.co.za, courtesy of Arrive Alive.

Plan your route as well as stops along the way.

“Don’t make unrealistic distance goals. Also, be aware that some riders within your group may not have the same stamina as the others, so allocate stops to cater for the most vulnerable rider.”

HAVE YOU HAD ENOUGH SLEEP? Before heading off on any road journey, make sure you’ve had adequate sleep the night before.
HJ: “If it’s a ride over several days, suggest to your fellow riders that they turn in at a reasonable hour rather than staying up drinking into the early hours of the morning. It will not only affect their safety, but also yours. And set a realistic departure time in the morning. Not too early.”

STAY HYDRATED: Dehydration can affect your concentration on the road, so drink plenty of water.
HJ: “For every cup or glass of your favourite beverage, drink the same amount of water. It will prevent you becoming dehydrated from exposure to the wind. Dehydration can lead to dizziness, confusion and slower body motor skills.

Maintain your energy by eating before hitting the open road.
HJ: “Eat smaller, more frequent meals and avoid carbohydrate-heavy foods. Big meals and foods high in carbohydrates, fat and sugar slow your body down while it concentrates on digesting the food.”

TAKE A BREAK: Take a break every two hours on the road.
HJ: “Take short stops at least every two hours. The fluids you have been taking in will mean you have to take regular toilet breaks, anyway. Take slightly longer stops between 3-5pm as this is when riders will be feeling more tired and will need longer to revitalise. In fact, try to arrive at your destination around this time.”

EXERCISE: During a rest stop get your circulation flowing by talking a walk.
HJ: “When you stop, try to get some light exercise, even just walking up and down the street. You’ve been sitting for some time, so there is no point in sitting in a restaurant.”

RIDE IN A GROUP: For safety, ride in a group. Other riders can warn of danger ahead and watch whether you’re fatigued.
HJ: “Ride in a small group. Riding solo is a recipe for losing concentration but riding in a big group can also make you switch off. Ride in small groups and take turns leading the pack.”

MIX-UP YOUR SPEED: Travelling at a constant speed can leave you fatigued.
HJ: “Don’t sit behind vehicles. If it’s safe, pass them. The act of passing stimulates your senses. Staying behind them tends to make you focus on the back of the vehicle which is hypnotic and can send you to sleep. But don’t think high speeds will keep you awake. It is better to mix up your speeds a little to keep you alert.”

Jonker adds: “You don’t have to prove anything to anyone when riding. Take your time and make sure you complete your journey. Take in some scenery on the way, stop to talk to locals and make each trip a memorable one.”
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