Drowsy Driving

Known to the layman as the result of ‘drowsy driving’, sleep-related vehicle accidents (SRVA’s) are a common type of road crash. They typically involve one vehicle colliding with the rear of another one, or drifting off the road and hitting other objects. The most dangerous times of day have a symmetry that makes them easy to remember: 2am-6am, and 2pm-6pm, and this ‘time of day’ factor is said to be just as important as the length of the journey. Working hours, and in particular shift-work, are an important aspect of these incidents. As in crime or illness, the prevention of ‘drowsy driving’ is better (i.e. much less risky) than an attempt to ‘cure’ it once it has started.

Being well-rested before starting a long journey is obviously wise and it is extremely important to have a proper break from driving every two hours or every 100 miles, whichever comes sooner.

think-2005_john-died-in-his-sleep_20%If you do start to feel drowsy, while driving, you can briefly help yourself stay alert by opening windows or boosting the air conditioning, playing music quite loudly and — if you are only carrying non-driving passengers — tell them that you are tired and that they should keep you alert until you can find the very first safe place to stop.

As soon as you can safely stop, do so. Take a nap. Researchers don’t yet seem to agree on this but it would seem that twenty minutes is the most highly recommended duration. Any less will be ineffective and much more can actually make matters worse (by making you too tired to continue). Obviously, the best cure of all is actually to have a proper sleep, of several hours duration.

If you are forced just to take a nap, as above, it is most effective if you also have a caffeine-based drink, too.

Please check out the links shown below:

  1. There is some excellent information and advice in an article on Fatigue Road Deaths in Australia
  2. Also from Australia (where they do much excellent road safety research) is this March 2002 press release: Crash Before You Drive (National Roads and Motorists’ Association — NRMA)
  3. Statement to the U.S. House of Representatives by Gerald Donaldson, the senior research director for Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. Advocates, on the need to reform the commercial driver hours of service federal regulation.Click here.
  4. THINK! Driver Tiredness — UK Department for Transport
  5. Before and After: Rumble Strip Effectiveness should be read in co-ordination with ‘Safety Evaluation of Rolled-In Continuous Shoulder Rumble Strips Installed on Freeways’ (from the U.S. Dot Federal Highway Administration, and Highway Safety Information Systems (HSIS)
  6. Asleep at the Wheel: Who’s At Risk? is an article from the Medical Journal of Australia. (PDF)
  7. Driver Fatigue has been found to be present in one in every six fatal road crashes in Finland. Click here to read the article