The Dangers of Driver Fatigue

Studies have shown that drivers don’t fall asleep without warning. Drivers who fall asleep at the wheel have often tried to fight off drowsiness by opening a window, or by turning up the radio. This doesn’t work for long.If a driver is fatigued, this significantly increases the risk of a crash as it means they are less aware of what is happening on the road and impairs their ability to respond quickly and safely in the event of an emergency or critical driving scenario.

20% of accidents on major roads are sleep related

What are the Symptoms of Driver Fatigue?

It is difficult for a driver to self assess their own fatigue levels and the more fatigued the driver is the harder is it for them to accurately assess their own fatigue.  Ask any driver and they are likely to tell you they are never fatigued.  However, here are some warning signs to look out for:

  • The driver has trouble focussing and can’t stay attentive for long
  • They struggle to keep their eyes open and their head is bobbing
  • The struggle remembering the last few minutes / don’t know what you just said
  • They show signs of poor judgement and are slow to react
  • You feel like they are somewhere else or feel like they are day dreaming
  • They constantly yawn and are rubbing their eyes
  • You feel like they are ‘zoning’ or ‘zoned out’
  • If they are driving then they continuously drift in the lane

If any of your drivers ae experiencing any of these symptoms then it is likely that they are already fatigued.

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What Are The Causes of Driver Fatigue?

There are two main causes of driver fatigue which are:

  • Lack of sleep or the quality of sleep they have
  • Driving at late hours in the day when they would normally be winding down or sleeping

The end result of not getting enough sleep, is that drivers end up getting what’s known as a sleep debt – essentially an amount of sleep that they owe themselves.  The only way to release the sleep debt is by sleeping and until a driver catches up on the lost sleep, their chances of an accident increase.

There are a number of factors which increase the likelihood that a driver will become fatigued which include:

  • How long the driver has been awake in the day
  • The driver’s level of physical or mental activity at that point in time
  • The time of day: essentially the biological clock (circadian rhythm) that influences how alert or drowsy someone is at certain times of the day
  • The presence of untreated sleep disorders (such as obstructive sleep apnea or narcolepsy)
  • Sedative drugs
  • The quantity and quality of the previous night’s sleep

Driver Fatigue Facts

  • Research suggests that almost 20% of accidents on major roads are sleep-related
  • Sleep-related accidents are more likely than others to result in a fatality or serious injury
  • Peak times for accidents are in the early hours and after lunch
  • About 40% of sleep-related accidents involve commercial vehicles
  • Men under 30 have the highest risk of falling asleep at the wheel

(think.direct.gov.uk)

The Effect and Consequences of Driver Fatigue

Fatigue impairs the mental processing and decision making abilities and drivers can lapse into a ‘micro sleep’ without even realising it.  It may last only a few seconds but if this coincides with the need to perform a critical manoeuvre or braking the risk of a crash is extremely high.

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Micro sleep accidents typically involve a single vehicle that departs the driving lane and collides with another car or object, such as a tree beside the road.  The consequences of accidents attributed to driver fatigue are often the most serious in terms of death, injuries and property damage because the fatigued driver makes no attempt to avoid the impending crash.

This is why the effects of driver fatigue are so dangerous.

What Does This Mean for Community Transport?

Community transport relies on the generosity of volunteer drivers to operate.  However, no one is superman when it comes to driving, and it’s important for community transport services to manage their drivers and how many trips they are doing, and when.  Not only is this important to offset the HMRC allowed mileage and payments but also to ensure drivers do not become fatigued and then carry passengers to their appointments.

The easiest way to manage this is to keep data and totals on the journeys your volunteer drivers are undertaking.  This way you can also manage the availability of the drivers and see when they might be driving too much or too far and re allocate them accordingly to a time when they would be less tired.

Using transport software you are also able to see bottlenecks of when driver fatigue might set.  Overall this increases the safety of your community transport services and ensures your passengers are all happy and safe.

This article was updated: