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Start alert, stay alert

Friday, 8 August 2008

The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) calls driver fatigue a silent killer and in a sense, that is just what it is.

Fatigue operates in much the same way as alcohol. Drivers who are slightly tired will not drive as well or as safely as those who are alert. As tiredness increases, mental and physical performance drops until eventually the driver falls asleep.

Research suggests that one in five motorway crashes are related to driver fatigue, although statistics are limited: drivers who are tired are seldom willing to admit it and those who crash can be too badly injured to recall the events leading to the collision. But it is clear there are far too many crashes arising from driver fatigue.

The IAM says that although fatigue is unavoidable there are a number of simple steps we drivers can take to reduce the problem:

Start alert

* Get plenty of rest before a long journey, don't drive if you feel tired, or unwell
* Wear comfortable loose clothing
* Adjust the driving seat in a car to a comfortable upright
position and adjust the heating/air-conditioning to a cool - not cold - temperature

Stay alert

* Try and avoid driving during the night when you would normally be asleep
* Early afternoon is also a high risk period to lapse in concentration
* Take regular breaks, at least every two hours
* Get out of/off your vehicle and walk around at the breaks, don't just sit in the seat

If you feel tired

* Act quickly and do not try to "drive through" the fatigue. Turning up the radio volume and opening the window, or turning the air-conditioner to the coldest setting in the hope that these will keep you awake won't work
* If you must continue, find a safe place to stop, have a caffeine rich drink and then take a short nap for at least 20 minutes. This will give the caffeine time to get into your system and gives you a "power nap". You can only do this once in a journey - it won't work a second time
* If you feel more awake continue, but bear in mind that you will have to stop reasonably soon. If you still feel tired, sleep until you feel fresh enough to continue.