Safe on the Road – Recognising Driver Fatigue


Fatigue is generally defined as ‘extreme tiredness’. In terms of driving, it can also cover the feelings of sleepiness, drowsiness and weariness. Research shows that around 20% of accidents on major roads come as a result of a sleep-related incident. This results in around 500 deaths a year. The most tragic part of all is that they can be easily avoided.

Driver fatigue isn’t something that sneaks up on you. It is something that you can identify well before it becomes a problem. Although others can help you to realise you are tired, the majority of the symptoms that come with fatigue are experienced by you directly, putting the responsibility directly at your door.

Some of the most common indications that you are experiencing driver fatigue are:

–          You have trouble keeping your eyes open and are unable to focus. For obvious reasons, it is vital that your eyes are always on the road. If you physically can’t do that, you have a big problem.

–           You nod and can’t keep your head up. The same applies here. Without eyes on the road and accident is almost a certainty.

–          You yawn a lot and need to rub your eyes. Classic signs that you are tired. Don’t ignore them.

–          You daydream. This is an indication that your mind is wandering. You have to concentrate completely on the road, to keep both yourself and others safe.

–          You miss road signs and markings, or drive pass your turning. We can all be forgetful from time to time. If you miss a turning through lack of concentration though then it could be down to fatigue.

–          You find yourself drifting out of your lane, maybe on to the hard shoulder. The second you feel your tire run over the shoulder rumble strip or central road studs, you know it is time to stop.

If you experience any of these symptoms, you should immediately pull over in a safe place. This could be at a service station, or even just a layby. The important thing is that you stop, not just open a window or turn up your music. These are short term measures and will not cure your fatigue.

The best ways to do this are to:

1.       Try and have a 20 minute sleep. This isn’t always possible, but if you can, you should.

2.       At least get out of the car and stretch your legs. Fresh air and a change of scenery will help you feel refreshed.

3.       Have a strong caffeine drink. Not as good as a sleep, but nonetheless an effective method. 

Fatigue driving is now viewed in the same way as driving over the drink-drive limit, with the consequences equally hard. When fatigue takes over a driver, you effectively fall in and out of consciousness. Stop. Don’t risk lives by trying to go that extra mile.