6 Ways to Prevent Driver Fatigue
From cross-country truckers to families headed on vacation, anyone that gets behind the wheel for a long drive can become a victim of driver fatigue. While nobody truly means harm when they drive while sleepy, drowsy drivers can be just as hazardous as drunk drivers. Apart from the immediate dangers of sleepiness while driving, repeated driver fatigue can perpetuate constant fatigue within the body , even while not driving. Ongoing fatigue can make the body a perfect host for diseases and conditions like chronic fatigue syndrome, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and systemic inflammation. The good news is that driver fatigue is simple and easy to control by implementing certain fatigue management techniques. Here are 6 ways to prevent driver fatigue on long trips.
1. Get enough rest, but not too much.
Driver fatigue can be easily avoided if you are well rested. Build predetermined stops into your route for short naps or overnight stays. Plan everything ahead and avoid driving at night when possible. No matter how much sleep you do during the day, there’s a good chance your circadian sleep rhythms can take over and make you sleepy when it becomes dark. When you do get rest, only get the sleep you actually need. While it may seem counterintuitive, sleeping too much can make you tired easily as well.
2. Recognize the signs of fatigue.
If your mind starts to drift away, your thoughts become fragmented or you get distracted easily then you are most likely experiencing symptoms of driver fatigue. You may find it hard to keep your eyes open or stop yourself from yawning and feel the need to rub your eyes and bling frequently. At this point, focus and alertness are already severely diminished and taking a break is crucial.
3.Share driving responsibilities.
If you are travelling with a companion, take turns and switch periodically. Rest, relax and refresh your mind while you’re in the passenger seat. If the other person isn’t necessarily tired, some conversation can be an effective way to stop the highway from putting you into a trance. Try rolling down a window or listening to some enjoyable music. If you’re traveling alone, you may be able to apply these in a similar fashion by simply pulling over or stopping for a break and changing your environment for a while.
4. Don’t drink and drive.
This may seem obvious, but it’s necessary to mention because even drinking alcohol the night before a trip can impact your driving ability the next day. Though you may not feel drunk still, the alcohol could still be in your system and leave you with a drowsy feeling. Of course, drinking right before or while you drive is never safe. This applies to prescription drugs as well. Don’t put anything in your body that may lessen your reaction time or impact your alertness.
5. Have some caffeine, but be cautious.
Stimulating beverages like coffee, tea and energy drinks can keep you awake and alert for a period of time, and they are most people’s first choice when it comes to fatigue management. Caffeine acts as a temporary central nervous system stimulant that wards off drowsiness and restore alertness. Caffeine should be used sparingly, however. While caffeine can provide a short boost, it can also produce a crash that could leave you feeling even worse than before. Artificially stimulating the nervous system can have a negative impact over time and prevent the body from efficiently recovering from fatigue.
6. Use technology.
There’s an app for fatigue management, too. You can use your smartphone to track how long you’ve been behind the wheel by setting a timer for mandatory breaks every couple hours. You can also use one of the various apps now available to track your driving and rest times. There are even devices on the market that can electronically record and observe work and rest times by notifying drivers and operators of preset fatigue breaches. Though these are mainly used by professional drivers.
Driver fatigue and its impact on the body are dangerous. It is also 100% preventable. The proper precautions taken while driving can save lives on the road and also help prevent disease caused by chronic fatigue over time.