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Driving when tired

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Driving when tired

Most people accept that their ability to perform certain tasks such as exercise or communicate coherently is minimized when they are extremely tired. However, thousands of people are happy to drive when they are in need of sleep.

When you need to cover a lot of miles quickly or have been having trouble sleeping, driving when tired might not seem like a big deal. However, few motorists realise how severe the dangers are when their eyelids begin to droop.

In fact, driver tiredness causes one in five of all roads accidents and hundreds of people are killed every year as a result of drivers falling asleep behind the wheel. When people fall asleep at the wheel, vehicles tend to drift across into oncoming traffic or obstacles on the roadside, and no braking occurs, so the impact of a vehicle that isn’t de-accelerating is far more severe.

It seems that falling asleep at the wheel is far more common than most people may realise. In fact, in a recent survey an incredible 10 per cent of people admitted to actually falling asleep at the wheel at some point when driving, while 20% of people stated that they had dozed off momentarily. The survey also indicated that men are three times more likely to risk driving when tired than women.

Tests have proven that not getting enough sleep has a serious impact on people’s ability to drive. In fact, drivers who have had five hours’ sleep or less before setting out on a journey are five times more likely to doze off during a long drive.

What few people seem to realise is that the dangers of driving while extremely tired are on a par to those of driving when drunk. Recent studies have proven that the effects of staying awake for 18 hours and driving during that time results in the same symptoms as being drunk. In fact, as the levels of sleep deprivation rise, the closer the symptoms are to drunk drivers.

One of the main problems is that the ability to react quickly is dramatically reduced when tired. Many people don’t realise how tired they are when concentrating on driving. Sometimes drivers nod off for a second or two without realising it and have no knowledge of the risks they causing to themselves, their passengers and everyone else on the road.

These short naps are known as microsleeps and occur for periods of between two and 30 seconds, usually without the driver’s knowledge. This can happen when the driver is severely tired and struggling to stay awake in order to reach his or her destination in good time. Although these microsleeps are common, the risks are extremely high as tests have shown that those who are driving at 70mph can cover 200 meters in six seconds. In this time a driver who has dozen off could easily allow their vehicle to drift across three lanes of traffic and into the path of oncoming vehicles.

People who regularly drive long distances for work or recreational purposes have many methods of trying to prevent drowsiness. Perhaps the most popular method is dosing up on caffeine, while others insist that listening to loud music or turning up the air-conditioning in the car is enough to keep them awake.

However, the only preventative method that has been proven to be effective is pulling onto the side of the road and taking a nap for 20 minutes or more. Drivers awake from their nap feeling more alert and can then continue their journey until they find somewhere to stop and sleep properly.

One of the reasons so many traffic accidents occur is that many people are unaware that they are driving when tired. To avoid this, it is important to recognize the warning signs.

Some indications of tiredness such as yawning and heavy eyelids are easy to recognize. Other signs include irritability, impaired concentration and drifting into other lanes.

Disclaimer: These tips are not exhaustive and are for information only. Carrentals.co.uk can not be held responsible for any losses incurred as a result of acting on any information contained herein.

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