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Top tips for avoiding a fatigue-related collision

 Published 27th January 2023
Driver Guides  General Guides 

We all know - or at least we should – the importance of checking your car is roadworthy before setting off on a long journey. A quick inspection of the tyres, oil, water, and so on is common sense. But what about checking that the most important component of the car is fit for purpose: the driver.

Breakdown and road safety organisation GEM Motoring Assist is offering a helpful reminder that before every long drive you need to make sure you're as ready as the car.

Being tired when you're driving raises the risk of a collision, because you're less aware of what's happening around you. If you're not fully awake your ability to react to anything happening around you is seriously compromised.

Fatigue can be a factor in up to 20% of all road collisions, and up to 25% of fatal and serious crashes

As GEM chief executive Neil Worth states: “A fatigue-related crash is around 50% more likely to result in death or serious injury, simply because a driver who has fallen asleep at the wheel will be unable to reduce speed or change direction to avoid a collision.”

The consequences of falling asleep at the wheel can be devastating, yet they are so easily avoided. Your brain and body will give off lots of warning signs before you actually nod off. Nobody just falls asleep without going through the recognisable stages of tiredness and distraction.

You lose focus and your head starts to wander. You start to fidget. You start to yawn. Your eyes start to hurt and you spend more time rubbing them than looking through them. When you get really tired you might start to drift around in your lane, or slow down without realising. You might even have those moments of realisation that you've got no idea of where the last few minutes disappeared to.

By the time you reach this point your ability to control a couple of tonnes of speeding metal is seriously impaired.

At this point it's vital that you stop somewhere safe as soon as possible. A power nap and/or a caffeine-based drink can provide a short-term fix, but they should never be used as an acceptable substitute for proper rest. If you're that tired, you must stop and rest properly.

Five simple tips for drivers to avoid reduce the risk of a fatigue-related collision

  • Get a good night's sleep before setting out on a long journey.

  • Don't press on into the night. Avoid driving at times when you would usually be asleep.

  • Avoid heavy meals on journeys, especially at lunchtime, as these can increase sleepiness in the afternoon.

  • On long journeys, take a break of at least 15 minutes after every two hours or 100 miles. Get out of the car, get some fresh air, and move around to wake yourself up.

  • You'll know when fatigue is affecting you. Resist the urge to be a hero - take a proper break.

Source: GEM Motoring Assist

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