Dark Outside, Lovely & Warm – Where is The Perfect Place to Fall Asleep? – It’s Your Car or Van.
With winter coming, the conditions we drive in will change dramatically, from lovely dry sunny weather where you can have your vehicles window open and get plenty of fresh air, to cold wet or even freezing weather where its heater turned up full and the windows shut tight and its dark for the commute back and forward to work.
Warm, dark, no fresh air, well that’s perfect sleeping conditions and unfortunately, just too many drivers don’t realise that even if they haven’t actually dropped off to sleep, they may be teetering on the brink and possibly on the brink of disaster.
Research says, that driving whilst tired or fatigued is a major factor in as many as one in 5 road accidents, as tiredness slows down our reaction times and don’t forget, that’s just tired, that’s not asleep. But does the research actually prove the case?
It has been proven conclusively that there are two times of the day during which we are more vulnerable to collisions due to tiredness or fatigue and they are at night between midnight and 6am and again at mid-afternoon in the post-lunch dip.
Well, the science says after testing some 240 drivers, by stopping them between the hours of 1am and 6am and asking them to take a reaction test. The tests revealed that drivers who didn’t feel tired had reaction times of around 189 milliseconds, whilst the drivers who said they were very tired had much slower reaction times of around 309 milliseconds. Now I guess that significant, it must be, but I don’t know about you, but we are talking in milliseconds here, not tenths of a second, or even a whole second and so you have to ask what reacting 120 milliseconds earlier is actually going to prevent happening, I mean you cant blink in that time!
Now to add a bit more to that, some research claims that having a slightly slower reaction time might not be manifesting itself in the way you behave when driving because its argued that when we are tired, we allocate our resources differently with the priority going to avoiding other vehicles and not having a crash, however something’s got to give and its likely other tasks we do in our vehicles might suffer.
As many of us drive for a living, or as part of our work, we are probably even more vulnerable and it could be reasoned that towards the end of a busy day, we are not going to be as fresh and alert as we were, so at greater risk of at best, a near miss. To make things worse, good old “Mr Research” says that when we are stressed, the chances of a ‘near miss’ increases even further.
Statements like “it is clear that the chances of having a crash increases greatly when the driver is tired” are almost certainly true and you don’t need any sophisticated research to prove that, we all know it and a lot of us have been in that position, but what’s important is how we prevent it happening to us.
Well, it’s said that opening your window, or perhaps listening to loud music will help, and whilst that’s true, the effect only lasts for around 15 minutes, so that’s not a fix. So what about taking a drink with high caffeine content? Well if you’ve had no sleep at all its claimed this is going to help you for around 30 minutes, but if you have had at least some sleep, the effect is going to last a bit longer, but its still not a fix.
The best way its said to combat tiredness and fatigue is to pull over and catch a few zzzz’s, yes take a nap and it does not have to be long, as experts say that just 10 or 15 minutes, followed by a caffeinated drink will be enough to get you up and running again.
It’s important if you are driving as part of your work, that your employers don’t set you impossible deadlines and that they allow you the time to take a break and ideally, don’t have work patterns that require you drive very early in the morning. Your employer has a duty of care towards you and can’t just close their eyes to this issue, after all, we are not robots, and we are all different. It’s important your employer takes this seriously and puts policies and procedures in place to identify situations where drivers might be at risk and tailors a solution that at the very least reduces the potential for a fatigued related accident.