Drivers need to be properly rested before setting off on long journeys, says breakdown and road safety organisation GEM. The advice comes as families from across the country begin summer holiday journeys lasting hours or in some cases even days to the south of France or further afield.
Being tired when you are driving raises the risk of a collision, because you are less aware of what is happening around you. Your ability to react is impaired if a risky situation develops. That is why fatigue can be a factor in up to 20 per cent of all road collisions, and up to 25 per cent of fatal and serious crashes.
GEM’s road safety officer Neil Worth says: “We want you to ensure your holiday starts the moment you close the front door and set off, but safety has to come first. If you’re on a long road journey, make sure you’re properly rested before you set out, and build in regular breaks on long journeys to help stay fresh, observant, and aware.
“This is particularly important if you’ve changed your routine and are driving early or late, or even through the night to avoid the queues.
“A fatigue-related crash is around 50 per cent more likely to result in death or serious injury, simply because a driver who has fallen asleep at the wheel will be unable to reduce speed or change direction to avoid a collision. The consequences can be devastating."
Worth warns of the tell-tale signs of driver fatigue. “There are many recognisable warning signs before you actually nod off at the wheel. These include difficulty focusing on the driving task, fidgeting, and frequent yawning, and rubbing. As fatigue worsens, it will be increasingly difficult to focus on driving. Accompanying this could be drifting to the left or right and an inability to maintain a constant speed.”
GEM’s simple driver tips to reduce the risk of a fatigue-related collision:
- Get a good night’s sleep before you drive a long journey.
- Build in time to reach your destination [or your night-stop] without rushing. Remove time pressures wherever possible.
- On long journeys, take a break of at least 15 minutes after every two hours or 100 miles. Get out of the car, do some exercise, stretch, or walk. If necessary, have a caffeine drink, or two, to boost your alertness.
- If you are driving all day, schedule a proper hour-long break in the middle of the day, as this serves to split the day’s driving into two shorter and more manageable halves.
- Avoid driving alone for long distances if possible. Share the driving, and support each other by watching for any signs of fatigue.
- Do not press on into the night. Avoid driving at times when you would usually be asleep.