With winter drawing in, the weather and darker nights put additional strains on drivers, particularly older and inexperienced motorists, so IAM RoadSmart’s head of driving and riding standards, Richard Gladman, shares his tips which might save you from having an accident or worse.
- Older people can be more susceptible to fatigue so tiredness can prove a real problem. Extreme tiredness can lead to micro-sleeps, whatever your age. This is a short episode of drowsiness or sleep that could last a fraction of a second or up to 30 seconds. A car driving at 70 mph will travel 31 meters per second, giving plenty of time to cause a serious crash during a micro-sleep.
- The effects of losing one or two hours of sleep a night regularly can lead to chronic sleepiness over time. So, ensure you are well rested and feeling fit and healthy before you set off.
- Make sure you take regular rest breaks to split up the journey when driving on a long, boring stretch of motorway. It’s good practise to stop at least every two hours and it’s essential to take a break before the drowsiness sets in.
- If necessary, plan an overnight stop. If you feel too fatigued to carry on driving, then book yourself into a hotel at the next service area and sleep it off. Wake up fresh with a good breakfast and carry on your journey. It’s good to note that a caffeine high may be a quick fix, but it’s not a long-term solution and certainly no substitute for proper sleep.
- Older people can get tired quickly, even when they haven’t been physically exerting themselves for long periods of time. So, avoid setting out on a long drive near the end of the day. It’s best to start your journey earlier, when you’re more alert.
- If possible, avoid driving between the two peak times for sleepiness. These are between 3am and 5am and between 2pm and 4pm.
- If you’ve taken prescribed medication, then seek advice from your GP as to whether you should be driving or not. If bought over the counter, then read the instructions on the pack or speak to a pharmacist.
Richard said, “Whatever your age, you need regular sleep to perform at your highest standards. Driving requires full concentration at all times and if you’re tired, your ability to concentrate is reduced.
“Internal body clocks or circadian rhythms are usually set to deal with normal lifestyle patterns, so extra care needs to be taken when you’re driving during a time you would normally be at rest. Stop, rehydrate and rest if you need to. This is particularly true for those who are driving in later life, but the rule applies to all.”
Now the earlier dark nights are here, Green Flag has looked into the impact the darker nights and winter driving conditions have on road traffic accidents, our cars, and fuel efficiency.
With temperatures expected to plummet overnight, Green Flag is forecasting a 20% increase on the average number of breakdowns, forecasting 4724 callouts and 3169 breakdowns on a typical winter night.
With the shorter days rolling in, research has uncovered the dangers of driving in the dark, with a whopping 3.6 million (or 9 per cent) drivers confessing they have been involved in a road accident as a result of driving in the dark.
A further 4.9 million drivers (or 11 per cent), say they know someone who’s been in a car accident due to driving in the dark. As a result, six in ten (61 per cent) drivers confess they’d rather take an alternative form of transport than drive in the dark, and almost half (44 per cent) of UK drivers admit they avoid driving in the dark entirely.
Just over one third (34 per cent) of drivers admit they avoid driving in these conditions as they feel more tired when it’s dark, meanwhile another one in three (32 per cent) admit they find it harder to judge distances.