Driver fatigue – it’s not all about microsleeps
A lot of us have been fatigued behind the wheel and battled to keep our focus on the road. We’ve relied on the usual tactics to try to keep ourselves awake including winding the windows down and belting out our best rendition of Madonna as it’s blaring through the speakers (ok, maybe just some of us!).
Nodding off, or experiencing microsleeps, is really the worst case scenario. But being fatigued while driving can be enough to impair you alone, without actually experiencing a microsleep.
Someone who is fatigued will often experience slower reaction times, reduced ability to concentrate and delays in interpreting information. Driving in this state could easily result in a traffic incident or accident.
The human body will naturally cycle through intervals of sleepiness and alertness, better known as the circadian rhythm. The window of circadian low (WOCL) is a period between 2:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. for those adapted to a usual day-wake/night-sleep schedule. During the WOCL, a reduction in physical & mental performance, alertness and body temperature. We also experience a low in the circadian rhythm in the afternoon, known as the postprandial dip, commonly referred to as the post-lunch dip or siesta time. According to the New Zealand Government’s Ministry of Transport, fatigue-related fatal and serious injury crashes peak during the WOCL and postprandial dip.
To avoid driver fatigue, we recommend to:
- Avoid driving during periods when you would normally asleep
- Allow yourself some time to wake up from your sleep before driving
- Share the driving where possible
- Plan breaks every 2 hours when driving for long periods of time
- Have a coffee nap (read our previous blog post here)