Did you know that fatigue is one of the biggest causes of road accidents on country roads? Long car rides can leave you exhausted, but there are a few ways to keep yourself alert and aware of any creeping tiredness. The more tired you are, the less you can recognise it, so it’s best to avoid getting sleepy in the first place rather than try to recover once it hits you.
Boredom is a key factor in causing driver fatigue. The boredom of a long car drive contributes to silly mistakes being made. While cruise control and climate control mean you can almost sit back, relax and wait to arrive, you won’t always be alert enough to respond quickly to an incident. Music is one way to keep you entertained, but be careful because it can also be a distraction. Don’t flick through songs, as this will take your hand off the wheel and your eyes off the road.
Your vehicle travels 30 metres every second you are looking at your CD player or personal electronic device.
You've probably heard that you should take a 15-minute break for every two hours that you’re driving. That’s to prevent you from getting fatigued rather than fix fatigue that you already have. Once you start to feel tired, it’s too late to fix things with a short break. Rest and sleep are the only ways to cure fatigue once it sets in. Sharing the driving duties helps, but you should still stop the car and both move around every few hours. It gets the blood pumping as well as your mind focused and ready to continue the drive.
Even if you’re taking regular breaks, you shouldn’t drive longer than 8 to 10 hours in a day. Driving can be very mentally tiring, so try not to drive any longer than your normal workday. If you were at work, you would usually have a coffee around 10am, so when you’re driving, stop for a coffee around 10am. Your body gets used to this kind of regular break, so you should make sure you’re giving it what it needs. This also applies to driving at times when you would normally be asleep. Your body clock has a surprising amount of power over how fatigued you’re likely to get, so plan your long drives like you would plan a normal day.
Remember that the traditional ways to get over your fatigue, like loud music, cold air, or overloading on caffeine, are only a very short term fix. If you’ve noticed you feel tired, you’re already fatigued. To stay safe, make sure you plan for the entire journey.