How to overcome driver fatigue

Driver fatigue can be just as dangerous as drunk driving. Sleep drunkenness is a real issue people face every day. Tiredness really can cause accidents on the road, so you need to make sure you’re always fully alert when driving. 

What causes driver fatigue? 

Driver fatigue doesn’t just occur in long distance driving. You can suffer from it on short journeys too. It’s caused by the lack of quality sleep in your everyday life, meaning you’re tired long before you get behind the wheel. 

Monotonous journeys can also increase driver fatigue. Motorway driving, for example is incredibly repetitive and you can increase your chances of feeling tired, particularly on clear roads. Busy roads demand more attention and help you stay alert.

You’re also much more likely to feel tired if you’re driving when you’d usually be asleep. Your body clock enjoys its routine, so if you have to alter it for a trip and find yourself driving in the dark, you might suffer from driver fatigue. 

man driving at night suffering from driver fatigue

Dangers of driver fatigue

Driver fatigue makes a huge difference to how you drive and how safe you are on the roads. If you feel tired while you’re driving, you might have: 

  • Slower reaction times 
  • Difficulty concentrating on the road
  • Poor judgement 

You need to be alert when driving, because you never know what might appear in front of you. Making sure you’re well rested is vital to your safety on the road.

Falling asleep behind the wheel can be deadly, even if it’s only for a few seconds. If you find yourself nodding off, you need to pull over and get some rest. A car travelling at 70mph will cover around 200 meters. In that distance, you could easily drift over multiple lanes of traffic or across the central reservation. 

Signs of driver fatigue 

You’ll know that you’re getting tired because you’ll recognise the signs for your body. Common signs of driver fatigue are:

  • Yawning 
  • Heavy eyelids
  • Increased blinking 
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Little mistakes like crunching the gears
  • Eyes rolling 
  • Neck muscles relaxing 
  • Irritability 
  • Speed creeping up or down erratically 

If you spot any of these signs in yourself, or the driver of the vehicle you’re in, request they stop and take a well needed break. It’s better to increase your journey time for a rest than to risk an accident.

woman in her car suffering from driver fatigue

How to beat driver fatigue 

There are lots of things you can do to prevent driver fatigue. The most obvious solution is to get enough sleep before setting out in your vehicle. The average person needs around 8 hours sleep in any 24 hour period to be able to function properly. Do you get enough sleep? 

Try and develop some good sleeping habits, and you’ll see an improvement in all areas of your life. Create a sleep schedule that works for you and get into a regular night-time routine. 

Other tips you can follow to help avoid and overcome driver fatigue are:

  • Avoid drinking any alcohol or taking medications that cause drowsiness before you drive
  • Don’t travel during times you’d normally be asleep 
  • Stay hydrated by drinking water, caffeinated drinks will only give a quick boost, not lasting energy
  • Take a break every 2 hours
  • Share the drive if possible 
  • Take a power nap of around 15 minutes if you feel sleepy 
  • Keep travel time under 10 hours a day 
  • Avoid junk food as it only provides a quick rush, not lasting sustenance. See our tips for a road trip snack here
  • Keep it cold – open your window or use the air conditioning so you can’t get warm and cosy
  • Move seat position – avoid getting too comfortable else you might doze off
  • Listen to podcasts or talk radio rather than music to keep your mind alert

Driver fatigue is a real problem that you will likely experience more than once in your life. Make sure you don’t take any risks on the road and give yourself plenty of time to rest on your journeys.

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