Although under-rated as a cause of accidents, driver fatigue contributes to a large proporsion of the road deaths each year. A number of studies clearly indicate that the ability the driver to properly handle a vehicle decreases as fatigue increases. A driver that suffers from fatigue can be just as dangerous as a drunk driver.

The effect of driver fatigue can clearly be seen in cases where a monitoring sytem such as a tachograph or electronic fleet management system is installed on the vehicle. The sad part is that we usually examine this information after someone was killed in an accident. The driving pattern becomes erratic and usually the driver start to slow down. The reactions of the driver is slower. His ability to properly observe possible dangers is effected negatively. The driver could fall asleep, with no control over the vehicle.

The following tips for the driver was published in the Sunday Times (South Africa) on December 12, 1999.

SAFETY FIRST

  • Get a good nights sleep before leaving
  • Avoid driving between 1am and 5 am
  • Plan your route to make sure you will have the opportunity to stop at safe places along the way
  • Stop every two hours (approx.), get out of the car and walk around
  • Avoid driving alone
  • Talk to your passengers, but keep your eyes on the road
  • Stay overnight rather than drive through the night
  • Check medication to see if drowsiness is a reported side-effect
  • Avoid drinking alcohol before or during your journey
  • Keep the temperature inside the vehicle cool
  • Have snacks available
  • Drink caffeine-laden drinks (effective only in the short term)
  • Listen to music or the radio
  • Monitor changes in the surrounding country-side

DANGER SIGNALS

  • Your eyes close or go out of focus
  • You struggle to hold your head up
  • You can’t stop yawning
  • Your thoughts become disconnected
  • You don’t remember driving the last few kilometres
  • You drift between lanes or miss traffic signs
  • You drift off the road
  • Remember that the symptoms can initially be more subtle than stated above

If you experience any of these symptoms, you may be in danger of falling asleep. Get off the road and take a nap. Rest is the only solution.

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