How to Avoid Driver Fatigue These Holidays

The statistics are eye opening. Driver fatigue contributes to approximately 10 to 20 per cent of all road accidents. This means that up to one in every five accidents can be attributed, at least in part, to drivers like you being too tired. The number could be even higher as fatigue, unlike alcohol and drugs, cannot be easily tested for.

Driver fatigue also known as drowsy driving, occurs when you are too tired to stay focused on the road. It is like trying to stay awake during a boring movie – only this time, your life is on the line. It slows your reaction time, slowing down and reducing your ability to make quick decisions.

Long lazy days and long drives

Holidays can be synonymous with long road trips. And even if you think you are alert, or you have pumped yourself up on caffeine, the monotony can lull you into a dangerous state of fatigue.

But what makes driver fatigue so dangerous on holiday drives?

Extended hours on the road: Holiday drives often involve vast distances, especially when you are trying to “avoid the crowds” and reach that perfect stopping place or get to your destination as fast as you can. These journeys can take many hours or even days. The longer you are on the road, the greater the risk of fatigue.

Heat and storms: If you are driving in summer, heat can make you even drowsier, even with the aircon blasting. And severe weather like storms, and driving in a downpour or sudden storm can increase stress levels and make you more susceptible to fatigue.

Traffic congestion: You know the feeling… crawling along in a traffic jam, not knowing when it is going to clear. The kids are getting restless and its adding hours to your trip. These traffic jams can be physically and mentally draining, increasing the likelihood of drowsiness.

How to avoid driver fatigue

Get a good night’s sleep: Before you even start your journey, make sure you have had a proper night’s sleep. Aim for at least seven to nine hours of shut-eye. Sleep is like fuel for your body, and starting your trip well-rested will give you the best chance of staying alert.

Plan your stops: Do not be in a hurry to reach your destination. Plan regular breaks along the way, about every two hours or 200 kilometres (125 miles). These breaks will not only help you stretch your legs but also give your mind a chance to reset. Use this time to enjoy a quick snack, hydrate, and get some fresh air.

Avoid long drives at night: Your body’s internal clock is naturally inclined to rest during the night. Avoid scheduling long drives during these hours. If possible, stick to driving during daylight when your body is more alert.

Stay hydrated: Dehydration can make you feel tired and sluggish. Always keep a water bottle within reach and take sips regularly. Avoid excessive caffeine or sugary drinks, as they may provide a quick energy boost but can lead to a crash later on.

Eat healthy snacks: Pack some healthy snacks like fruits, nuts, and whole-grain crackers. These will provide a steady supply of energy and keep your hunger at bay without causing a sugar rush and crash.

Listen to engaging music or podcasts: Keep your mind active by listening to upbeat music or podcasts that keep you focused and alert.

Recognise signs of fatigue: Know the warning signs of driver fatigue: yawning, heavy eyelids, drifting out of your lane, and trouble keeping your head up. If you notice any of these, it is time to pull over and rest.