family road trip

Managing fatigue while driving

Avoid driving tired and stay safe on the roads this holiday season.

Not drunk. Not speeding. Just tired.

This is the caption accompanying a confronting crash image in one of the advertisements on Transport for NSW’s Centre for Road Safety website, designed to educate drivers of the dangers of driving while tired.

According to Centre for Road Safety, fatigue is one of the big three killers on NSW roads. In fact, fatigue is estimated to be the cause of as many as 30% of all road accidents nationally.

Many people tend to associate driver fatigue with long road trips in the early morning or late at night, but it’s just as common on short road trips at any time of the day, too.

Plus, you don’t just get tired from waking up early or going to bed late. Illness, work, a busy life with kids and a long-term lack of sleep generally can also contribute to increased feelings of tiredness.

Regardless of the reason why you’re tired, though, you should always aim to avoid driving tired.

Before you start driving, ask yourself: do I feel tired? Have I had enough sleep over the past few weeks? How will I feel after I start driving? Is there someone else who can drive for me?

How dangerous is driver fatigue?

Fatigue is extremely dangerous for you, other motorists and pedestrians.

Fatigue can be fatal because drivers who are asleep can’t brake.

Also, being awake for about 17 hours has a similar effect on performance as a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.05.

When you’re tired, you can also experience ‘microsleeps’. These are those ‘head snaps’ you sometimes experience if you find yourself falling asleep in an unintended place or behind the wheel.

They can be as brief as one second or as long as several minutes – and, if they happen when you’re driving, there’s a high chance something very dangerous will happen.

Understanding fatigue

Some of the common early warning signs of fatigue are:

  • Yawning
  • Poor concentration
  • Sore/tired eyes
  • Restlessness
  • Drowsiness
  • Slow reactions
  • Boredom
  • Oversteering

If you’re experiencing any of these warning signs, stop in a rest area as soon as you can. Transport for NSW’s Centre for Road Safety recommend a 20-minute nap as soon as you experience these warning signs, if you can’t do that stop in a service station and have a break.

There are rest areas on all major highways and roads, but if you need to stop and can’t find one, you can also stop in any petrol station, car park or country town.

Preventing fatigue

Here are some tips to help you plan ahead and stay safe on the roads this holiday season.

  • Always aim to have a good night’s sleep – ensure you’re feeling well rested before you drive anywhere, even when embarking on short trips
  • Test yourself before you start driving – you can visit for more information about this
  • Have an alternate driver on stand-by – if you know you’ve been feeling tired recently, ask a friend or family member to help out, even with short drives
  • Plan for regular breaks on long drives – and don’t put yourself under pressure to drive long distances in a short amount of time
  • Avoid driving between 10pm and 6am – the risk for a crash is greater during these times

Visit Stop Revive Survive to learn how to detect the early warning signs of fatigue when you are driving.

You can also find Driver Reviver sites, which operate all over Australia during school holidays with places to take a break. They also offer complimentary refreshments, toilets, shade, seating and water.



Category: Wellness


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Article by: Defence Health