The Christmas holiday period is an amazing time of the year. There always seems to be something going on and you always seem to be heading from one event to another. For many people this time of the year means long road trips to visit friends and family and see new places. Driving is a tough task at the best of times but add significantly more traffic, potentially more stress racing to and from several different commitments, more alcohol and far less sleep, and all of a sudden driving becomes a very dangerous task.
It is crazy to think that approximately 10% of motor vehicle accidents are attributable to driver fatigue, tiredness, or falling asleep at the wheel. So already we see that this lack of sleep and increased fatigue during this period is a devastating mix, even far more concerning is the statistic showing people suffering from obstructive sleep apnoea are roughly seven times more likely to have a car accident.
Many of us think we can keep our minds alert and continue to drive long distances even when we’re feeling tired and drowsy. But sleep is a powerful biological drive that can overtake even the best driver. Rolling down the windows and turning up the radio volume simply don’t work and are merely superficial solutions.
When should I pull over?
Whenever you experience any of the following signs it is absolutely critical that you pull the car over. Driving a little bit further to reach your destination sooner is a very dangerous and silly idea, it is easy to stop, recalibrate and refresh before continuing on your journey. Pull over when you have difficulty focusing, are frequently blinking, have trouble remembering the last few kilometres driven, repeatedly yawning and rubbing your eyes, have trouble keeping your head up and have become extremely restless and irritable. Well before a person actually falls asleep while driving, lapses in attention and slowed reaction times make drowsy driving very dangerous.
Tips for Driving
The best way to make sure your mind and body are in the best driving shape is to plan ahead and get 7-8 hours of sleep before your drive. A nap before you commence on your journey can also help refresh your body and mind. If you feel tired whilst driving it is easy to pull over to a safe location and take a short nap to restore your mind again. Try to share the driving with other people in the car when possible, take a 5-10 minute breaks every 2 hours when travelling long distances, avoid using the heater when driving, avoid heavy meals when driving and avoid using cruise control. Don’t rush, avoid alcohol and if needed caffeine can help improve alertness but be aware that the effects of caffeine will wear off after several hours, so don’t rely solely on a cup of coffee.
Be safe and smart this holiday season. It is best to take precautions and ensure you are always fresh and focused.
(Photo Courtesy of blog.drivewise.ly)