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Micro-Sleeping While Driving: Expert’s 5 Tips to Spot Driver Fatigue

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Drowsy or fatigued driving contributes to an estimated 20% of major road accidents in the UK. This is when a driver loses attention due to tiredness or lack of sleep, which greatly threatens road users’ safety. 

Many people may not be aware that fatigued driving can have similar effects on driving performance as those who drink and drive. With this in mind, Blake Parker, general manager at Right2Drive, a not-at-fault accident replacement vehicle provider, shares five major signs of fatigued driving for both drivers and passengers to be aware of.

What is the biggest cause of fatigue driving?

Blake said: “While driver fatigue can be caused by many factors, such as medication, lack of good quality sleep is commonly the biggest reason. For example, if you have been awake continuously for over 16 hours, it can put you at a much greater risk of driver fatigue. This is usually the case for a lot of people, especially shift workers, such as healthcare professionals, who may typically follow an uneven and prolonged work pattern or schedule. 

This makes it even more important to prioritise getting a good quality of sleep daily, with most adults needing between 7 and 9 hours of sleep and younger people requiring more. But it is still advisable to avoid driving on long journeys between midnight and early morning, as this is when your natural alertness is at a minimum.

Feeling fatigued to the point where you’re unable to concentrate can alter your ability to drive safely, so it is crucial to recognise if you (either as the driver or passenger) know how to spot driver fatigue and prevent fatigue-related accidents.”

Here are the signs of a fatigued driver:

Sore or heavy eyes

Among the first signs of driver fatigue is the feeling of heavy or tired eyelids, as this indicates that you may not be fit to drive.

Blake said: “Many people may experience unintentional periods of sleep, also known as ‘microsleeps’ while driving – with heavy eyes, yawning and difficulty concentrating are all signs of drowsiness to be aware of.  

If you notice yourself, or if someone else is behind the wheel, starting to doze off, this is a clear indication of microsleep, and you should take immediate action to prevent any major collision. One way to combat microsleep driving is to pull over as soon as you can in a safe location and take at least 15 to 30 minutes to rest, stretch and get movements in your body.

If you are experiencing drowsiness and difficulty keeping your eyes open before you even set off, do not begin your journey, as it can greatly affect your general awareness and put you and others at risk.”

A delay in reaction time

Not being able to respond to changing conditions on the road can lead to dangerous situations.

Blake said: “When driving while fatigued, the quality and accuracy of your driving can also dramatically drop, leading to a considerable delay or slowed reaction time. Stay calm but on high alert while maintaining a safe distance and speed to anticipate any potential hazard.

“For those travelling for a longer period, make sure to stay hydrated throughout your journey, as this can help keep you more alert.”

Drifting in lanes

When you are experiencing fatigue, it is much harder to control your vehicle and you may find yourself veering into another lane. This poses a major risk to other road users and increases your chances of having an accident.

Blake added: “If you find yourself drifting off in between lanes, slow down your speed, get your vehicle under control and then find a safe place to stop. If you notice another driver veering in between lanes unnaturally, stay on guard and maintain a safe distance.”

Variation in driving speed

Blake says: “Tiredness can make you lose focus. You may not be aware that you’re driving under the speed limit or breaking road rules and driving above it. Driving erratically can easily lead to accidents, as it makes it difficult for other road users to anticipate what you’re planning to do.

If you are a passenger and you start to notice that the driver is driving at varied speeds, check up on them and speak up to let them know.”

Minimal driver stimulation and loss of concentration

Driving for long periods, especially for more than two hours at a time without a break, can impact your concentration. 

Blake added: “Particularly if you have been driving for long distances on motorways or stretches of straight roads, you may experience a loss of concentration as the lack of stimulation can make drivers more susceptible to tiredness.

Remember that if you need to drive for an extended period of time, it is important to take regular breaks, at least every two hours. If you notice any signs of fatigue, pull over when it is safe to do so, and take a break.”

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