Sleeping behind the wheel

Sleeping behind the wheel

The US has just concluded Drowsy Driving Prevention Week to coincide with daylight saving time. As South Africa comes to the end of a working year or many drivers prepare to embark on long distance trips to family and holiday destinations, it is worthwhile reminding ourselves how to remain alert and not be susceptible to drowsy driving.

The CEO of MasterDrive, Eugene Herbert, says research shows drowsy driving can often be just as dangerous as driving after drinking alcohol. “There are a number of habits to adopt that can help drivers be aware of when they are vulnerable of drowsy driving and then prevent oneself from driving while tired. These are basic things that every driver can become accustomed to practicing to become better and safer drivers.”

Tips to prevent drowsy driving:

  • Get a good night’s rest before a long trip or every night if you drive for a living.
  • Recognise the drowsy signals and respond to it immediately. Indicators of drowsiness include frequent yawning, heavy eyes and blurred vision.
  • Ensure that you do not drive for longer than two hour stretches at a time.
  • Pay attention to what you consume. Avoid meals high in sugar and rather choose meals that provide consistent energy.
  • This includes ensuring you are well hydrated at all times, especially at this time of year.
  • Avoid taking medications that can cause drowsiness – check with your chemist.
  • If you feel drowsy while driving, it is better to stop and take a break than to continue driving (be sure it is in a safe place).
  • Coffee and other caffeinated drinks can provide a temporary increase in alertness but be prepared that it can also cause a slump in energy after consumption for some people.
  • If you have a co-driver, it is better to change drivers when you start feeling drowsy rather than attempt to ignore it.
  • As an employer or fleet manager, have a policy about how to proceed when it comes to drowsy driving that is clearly set out and has practical measures for drivers to follow.

At this time of year drowsy driving can be quite a challenge as people are mentally and physically fatigued. “Protect yourself against the dangers of drowsy driving by increasing your awareness levels and understanding of this driving challenge. Then implement steps to reduce the effects it can have on your driving,” says Herbert.

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