Everyone has different requirements when it comes to the amount of sleep needed to guard against fatigue. Make sure you know how much sleep you need, and get it regularly.
Annually, around 20 lives are lost in crashes in which WA Police suspect fatigue is a factor. Fatigue-related road deaths and serious injuries are not restricted to rural and regional roads, nor are they restricted to people driving long distances.
When you are driving tired, you can drift in and out of sleep without knowing it. Sleep experts call this a micro-sleep and it can last three to five seconds. They are the main cause of fatigue-related crashes. A micro-sleep of five seconds at 110km/h is like travelling the length of an Aussie rules football field with your eyes closed.
The effects of fatigue when driving can be compared with drink driving. For example, driving after being awake for 17-19 hours is equivalent to driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.05. Driving after being awake for 24 hours is equivalent to a BAC of 0.10.
Don't Ignore the Yawning Signs
Early danger signs of fatigue include:
- Wandering thoughts.
- Missing a gear, road sign or exit.
- Slowing or speeding up unintentionally.
- Braking too late
If you are driving, you should get off the road if you:
- Blink more than usual.
- Have trouble keeping your head up.
- Notice your eyes closing for a moment or going out of focus.
- Forget driving the last few kilometres.
Driving long distances
Plan your journey if you are going to be driving long distances. Get at least 7.5 hours sleep the night before. You should not be driving if you feel tired. When driving, take a break every two hours and if possible, swap drivers.
Burning The Candle At Both Ends
Fatigue-related road deaths and serious injuries can also be a risk for metro drivers. Shift-workers, poor sleep patterns and those balancing study-work-social commitments are all at risk of driving fatigued.
Factors increasing your risk of being involved in a sleep-related vehicle crash include:
- Working a night shift.
- Averaging less than 7.5 hours sleep per night.
- Poor overall quality of sleep.
- Excessive daytime sleepiness.
- Frequent night-time driving (especially between midnight and 6am).
- Use of medications that cause drowsiness.
- Driving after being awake for more than 15 hours.
- Driving for extended periods of time.
- Air toxic emissions from new motor vehicle interiors.
To guard against fatigue know how much sleep you need, and get it regularly.