Driver fatigue accounts for 20% of road accidents in the UK

This article was published on: 12/2/15

What makes driver fatigue a factor?

A factor, which is said to be contributing towards this are people’s working hours and the fact they are working for longer and commuting further to get into work. It is also believed that certain medications whether they are over-the-counter or given to us by our doctor, may also be causing drowsiness behind the wheel.

What causes driver fatigue?

Because of the growing number of people that are now either working early in the morning or late at night, there has been a growing increase in accidents that have been caused by drivers falling asleep behind the wheel.

Research by the RoSPA (2011) has shown that men in particular and people who work in haulage are more likely to suffer from driver fatigue and therefore they are more at risk, as they struggle to stay alert during long hours of driving and constant use of monotomous motorwars.

Another aspect of driver performance that has been raising questions is the use of cruise control . It is believed that drivers who use cruise control can often become less aware of the road and more likely to become tired or not be aware of there surroundings.

What can be done to stop this happening?

There are many techniques and steps that can be carried out to help prevent drowsiness when driving. Some of these include:

  • Making sure you are well rested, especially if your planning a long journey
  • Stop every two hours for a 15 minute break
  • Having a cup of coffee and taking a nap of no more than 15 minutes can make you feel more alert for a short period of time
  • If necessary plan a overnight stop
  • Avoid setting off for a long journey when you have been working all day
  • Avoid driving in the small hours (between 2am and 6am)
  • Be careful when driving between 2pm and 4pm, especially when you’ve just eaten
  • If at any point on a journey you feel tired, stop in a safe place and take a break (not the hard shoulder of a motorway)

What about people who work in haulage or drive most of the day?

Laws have now been put into place to restrict HGV drivers from driving for longer than 4.5 hours without a break. This is part of the updated driver’s hours directive 2011.

For example if a driver has been on the road for 4.5 hours they now, according to law, have to stop for 45 minutes to take a break. If they have been driving for 2.5 hours and have stopped to do other work i.e. dropping off a load at a supermarket depot, they can then drive another 2 hours before they have to stop for 45 minutes. This means that breaks can be distributed across the 4.5 hours as long as the journey is broken up by small breaks of 10 to 15 minutes.  The use of a tachograph card can monitor a driver’s road driving time and stops they have taken. All HGV drivers have to have a tachograph card inserted into a machine, placed in a lorry cab, throughout there shift. In recent times modern tachograph machines will flash or alert a driver if they are close to there maximum driving time. Drivers can drive from 9 to 10 hours a day, depending on their total accumulated driving time and breaks.

How some medication can affect driving capability

According to the road safety charity,  Brake ,  although there are many articles and press releases about taking illegal drugs while driving, there is little awareness that some over-the-counter medication can cause drowsiness.

Many prescription and over-the-counter medications can impair your ability to drive safely and can affect reaction times, coordination and concentration levels.. A UK study in 2000, found 5% of drivers and 4% of motorcyclists who died in road crashes had taken medicines that could have affected their driving.

Medicines that can affect your driving capability should carry a warning label on the packaging, but a survey carried out by Brake and Direct Line found that 17% (one in six ) of  UK drivers admit either ignoring warnings not to drive or not checking the label at all.

Almost 44% of drivers who use medication, such as hay fever tablets, admit to sometimes or never checking the instructions to see if it will affect their driving.

Brake believes that there’s not enough press to educate people about medication and how they should always check the packet for advisories before taking anything. There is also the notion about the blurred and confusing messages that present themselves on medication. For example “if you feel tired or impaired..” , this may confuse people as how can we accurately know if we are feeling impaired or incapable of driving at that time?

Due to this Brake want pharmaceutical companies to have better instructions and warnings on there packaging, to ensure that they can be easily read and understood. This way, users of these medications can be more aware of whether or not what they take medicine to get rid of a migraine, for example, and it will allow them to drive safely or not at all.

Have you been involved in a road traffic accident?

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