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WATCH: Understanding driver fatigue and how incredibly dangerous it can be on SA's roads

2018-07-18 09:44

Image: iStock

We live in a 24-hour society – television, travel, browsing the internet means that we often don't get a chance to fully switch off.

As a result of our hectic 24-hour lifestyles, many of us don’t allocate enough time for sleep and regularly find ourselves in a state of sleep deprivation. This can be incredibly dangerous on the road.

Daydreaming and driving - how dangerous can it be?

Arrive Alive has created an awesome animation highlighting the dangers of driver fatigue on our roads:

Arrive Alive's Johan Jonck said: "It was just a year ago that the Arrive Alive website was approached by the company Franki which tragically lost 18 workers in a road crash in Machadodorp when a fatigued truck driver ploughed into the mini-bus transporting its workers. 

"Franki met with Arrive Alive and expressed the need for an increased focus in awareness about the perils of driver tiredness and fatigue.

"It was decided to address this on numerous fronts, including the need to look at regulating driving hours for truck drivers. One of the ways to create increased awareness was to use animation to highlight these dangers and how to prevent tired drivers posing a risk to other road users.

"This animation is one of the steps used towards these efforts and we would like to dedicate this to the workers and their families who sadly fell victim to a road crash caused by driver fatigue. May we learn from this and share with our fellow workers and road users."

Why are we driving while fatigued?

Another reason society suffers from sleep loss is our poor attitude towards sleep. Most of us don’t take sleep seriously, as reflected in a recent survey (by Gallup) which showed that 94% of adults did not consider getting enough sleep to be important.

Many people, particularly men, also consider tiredness to be a weakness and will push on and try to overcome feelings of tiredness rather than admit that they should take a break and get some rest.

We cannot live without sleep

Like food and water, sleep is a biological need that we must fulfil in order to survive and if this need for sleep is not met, we experience tiredness.

                                                                          Image: iStock

Tiredness has many behavioural effects and it impairs our performance of all types of work - physical and mental. For example, when we are sleep deprived memory and recall of recent events is reduced, the reaction time is decreased, driving is more erratic and we are more vulnerable to making mistakes.

Tiredness affects a range of cognitive abilities. In normal circumstances, we can cope with these effects without too much danger. But if we are involved in safety critical work, including driving, or are involved in an emergency situation, these effects can result in major problems.

Causes of driver tiredness

The primary reason for driver tiredness is sleep loss. There are many reasons why sleep loss occurs, ranging from long work hours, long commuting times and family/social commitments to illness or noisy neighbours.

Sleep loss accumulates

A small amount of sleep loss on one night is not necessarily a problem, but what most of us don’t appreciate is that if you don’t get enough sleep for two or more nights in a row, then the effects build up.

                                                                          Image: iStock

On the road

As driving is a safety critical task it is essential that you manage your tiredness on a long term basis by ensuring that you get regular good quality sleep. You also need to plan your journeys to include regular breaks at least every 2 hours.

Even with the best preparation possible, there will be times when you might have problems maintaining alertness behind the wheel. In these situations the best short-term advice is:

• If you are feeling tired STOP DRIVING.
• Park somewhere safe.
• Don’t park on the hard shoulder. If you’re on the motorway, take the next exit and find somewhere safe to park, or stop at the next motorway service area.
• If necessary call someone to let them know you may be late.
• Have a couple of cups of strong coffee.
• Followed by a 15-20 minute nap.

Caffeine takes about 20 minutes to take effect, so use this "window of opportunity" to have a short nap of no more than 15-20 minutes.

If you sleep for much longer than 20 minutes you can fall into a deep sleep and wake up feeling groggy (this feeling is known as sleep inertia). Please make sure you lock the doors before settling down for your nap.


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