Posted on 30 Mar 2021

The risks of driver drowsiness and fatigue on long road trips


As the Easter holiday fast approaches, many of us will be heading to various destinations by car, meaning spending long tiring hours behind the steering wheel. We need to be cognisant that this can result in driver drowsiness and fatigue which may have dire consequences by placing not only our own lives at risk but also that of our fellow road users.


Driver fatigue impairs your driving skills. When one starts feeling tired or exhausted it often results in some difficulty moving your arms, legs, and other muscles.  It makes you less alert, affects your hand-eye co-ordination, and could result in you driving more recklessly without you even noticing.


Even though driver fatigue is typically linked to long distance driving, it can also present itself after a long day at work or a day trip and as a result, fatigue-related accidents can happen on any trip, no matter how long or short or the time of day.


Many people don’t know, or choose to ignore, how much driving is too much, and that one of the biggest mistakes we make is not to rest when we are tired. It’s important to think about how tired you are before you get behind the wheel. Be aware of and recognize the early warning signs and know what to do to avoid driving tired.


You should be on the alert for the signs of sleepiness such as trouble keeping your eyes open, difficulty paying attention, or yawning frequently. If you notice any of these warning signs, stop every now and then for a rest, and if needed, a quick nap. Just a 20-minute nap will greatly improve your overall alertness and energy levels. During a break, work in a quick exercise to get the blood flowing and more oxygen to your brain for increased alertness.


The problem associated and often overlooked with long-distance driving is that many people do not know, or choose to ignore, how much driving is too much. On longer trips, plan yourself a 15-minute break outside the vehicle every two hours or every 160 km. You can double this up with topping up fuel or local attractions on the route. There is no rule to say how far you should drive at any given time, but no destination is worth risking your life. Don’t overextend yourself. Determine a reasonable distance in advance and stop driving when you reach it.


If you must stop for a rest, stop at a designated rest area or parking lot. It usually is not advisable to just pull off to the side of the road to sleep, yet there may be times when it is better to pull off the road and nap than to continue driving and chance falling asleep behind the wheel.


Safe travels from the ENVASS Team.