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Learning to drive

How to deal with physical and mental fatigue

After being continually awake for 18 hours, your driving ability is worse than that of a drunk driver! Get up at 7am, stay awake all day and go out in the evening, and by the time you drive home at 1am, you’re at serious risk of slowed reactions. Leave it till 2, 3 or 4am and it’s even worse. Your driving will be affected by the lack of sleep well before you notice you’re getting tired.

What happens if drive when tired?

Your reactions will be slower. You’ll be less alert. If someone pulls out in front of your car, your brain just won’t process the information quickly enough – you’re less likely to brake in time and more likely to crash. And that’s assuming you don’t fall asleep entirely. It’s not just how long you’ve been awake that matters, it’s how much sleep you had the night before. The need for sleep varies from one person to another, but eight hours is common and a minimum of seven hours is usually needed for optimum performance. If you get less than five hours’ sleep, your driving ability will be badly affected – and if you get too little sleep night after night, the effect will build up. There are lot’s of mythical remedies for feeling sleepy, but there’s only one really effective way to reduce sleepiness – and that’s to sleep.

 

How to avoid fatigue behind the wheel…

  1. Get plenty of rest before you set off.
  2. Avoid alcohol before any journey – even a small amount can make you more tired.
  3. Take regular and proper breaks – a 15-minute rest for every two hours of driving.
  4. Caffeinated drinks can help boost energy, but they take 20 minutes to have an effect.
  5. Avoid heavy meals before and during journeys, especially at lunchtime.
  6. If you can, share long journeys with another driver – alternating driving and resting.
  7. If necessary, schedule an overnight stop for really long drives.

Killer fact – There are two fatigue hot spots for most of us: 3am-5am and 3pm-4pm. These slot see the most fatigue-related crashes, so if you’re set for a long drive early in the afternoon, don’t assume you’re ready for it. 

Spot the signs

It’s not just yawning and heavy eyes that indicate fatigue. You might feel fidgety and irritable or find yourself daydreaming. If you have any of these symptoms, stop and take a rest. You can’t fight tiredness by sheer willpower.