Longer darker evenings and nights with bad weather put added stress and strain on driving and the arrival of Christmas celebrations make it worse.
Celebrations during the period can be tiring. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the signs that tiredness has taken its toll and to stay safe when driving home.
It is advised not to get behind the wheel if you are too tired to drive or over the legal drink drive limit and arrange an alternative option such as a taxi or hotel room.
Driver fatigue is a serious issue that results in thousands of road accidents each year. Recent research has found that 1 in 8 of drivers admit to falling asleep at the wheel at least once in their lives. Potential new legislation suggests that tired drivers may be asked to do a blood test with the possibility of being penalised for being sleep-deprived when driving.
Research has found that our bodies produce more of the sleep hormone in darkness. Therefore, throughout the winter months when daylight hours reduce, we are likely to feel more tired, and the risk of falling asleep behind the wheel is increased. It is important that during the darker months, drivers are aware of when they are feeling fatigued and understand ways to prevent it.
Specialist insurance broker ChoiceQuote, a Gallagher company which cover professional and drivers and businesses, found that there has been a 100% increase in Google searches for “Why do I fall asleep while driving?” in the last 12 months.
With drivers being tired behind the wheel becoming an increasing problem, ChoiceQuote has outlined the possible signs that you are too tired to drive and ways in which you can prevent driver fatigue.
Top 5 signs that you are too tired to drive:
- Continually yawning
Studies have found that yawning frequently is a key indicator of sleep deprivation which can impact how you feel and function .
- The inability to keep your eyes open
The inability to keep your eyes open, as well as the increased frequency of blinking, is often your body sending a signal to your brain that you need to sleep.
- Your vision becomes blurry
Your vision becoming blurry is a sign that your eyes are tired and will impact your ability to see the road ahead.
- Delayed reaction times
A lack of sleep or tiredness can lead to an increased reaction time. This is detrimental when driving as it makes it harder to react quickly to changing road conditions and other drivers around you.
- You become disorientated
Occasionally, tiredness can cause disorientation and make you forget the last several minutes of your drive, this is a result of your brain lowering its alertness.
Whilst being aware of the signs that you are suffering from driver fatigue is extremely important, taking precautions to prevent it is paramount for keeping yourself and others on the road safe when driving home after Christmas festivities. These include the following:
Ways to prevent driver fatigue during the festive period:
- Ensure that you are well-rested
Driving home after Christmas celebrations can be late at night meaning that it will have been a significant amount of time since you slept if you have been working all day. Research has found that driving when awake for 18 hours has the same impact on the brain as someone with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.05%. Therefore be mindful of how long it has been since you were last asleep and make plans to stay the night if necessary.
- Take frequent breaks when necessary
Aim to take frequent breaks to give your body a rest from driving. The Highway Code recommends taking 15-minute break every two hours. Ensure to make time for breaks into your overall journey time.
- Understand the effects of any medicine that you are taking
A side effect of some medicines is drowsiness so ensure that you are aware any medication that can cause this and take extra precautions if it does.
- Avoid eating heavy meals just before driving
Eating large amounts of food may cause you to feel drowsy, so perhaps wait for a while for your Christmas dinner to digest sufficiently and for the drowsiness to subside.