Driver Fatigue is the silent killer on our roads. A European Road Safety Observatory Report on Fatigue (2006) Fatigue has suggested that fatigue is a major factor in a large proportion of road crashes (range 10-20%).
It is often difficult to calculate the true risk of driver fatigue in vehicle crashes – as many drivers would not be willing to testify to falling asleep behind the steering wheel. They would rather refer to some other reason or animal crossing the road in front of them on their car insurance claim form. Several studies have however confirmed that fatigue is associated with increased crash risk.
A person who drives after being awake for 17 hours has a risk of crashing equivalent to being at the 0.05 blood alcohol level (i.e. twice the normal risk). The increased risk often results from a combination of biological, lifestyle-, and work-related factors. It has been suggested in the Report that more scientific evidence is needed concerning the exact quantitative relationship between fatigue and risk.
In South Africa the problem of driver fatigue is of special importance. Many drivers have to drive hundreds of kilometres between towns and often do not take the necessary precautions to avoid fatigue. Our roads are long and straight and it is easy to become somewhat bored and lose concentration behind the steering wheel!
But how effective are energy drinks in avoiding road crashes?
The Energy Drink market is huge – and every rest stop or “quick shop” next to the roads is stacked with a variety of energy drinks. These neatly branded cans of energy drinks mostly contain a combination of caffeine and glucose and could assist to give the driver somewhat of a “spike” when he goes onto the next stretch of road!
On the Arrive Alive website we have made available more information on Energy Drinks, Driver Alertness/ Tiredness and Road Safety. There are studies which confirm that 2 cans of energy drink could boost the alertness amongst drivers. It is important to share this with our road users – but even more important is the need to emphasize that energy drinks should not be regarded as a replacement for good rest!
To avoid fatigue related crashes it is also important to identify some of the early warning signs of a fatigued driver. These include:
* eyes closing or going out of focus by themselves
* trouble keeping one’s head up
* inability to stop yawning
* having wandering and disconnected thoughts
* inability to remember driving the last few miles
* drifting between lanes
* missing traffic signs
* jerking the car back into the lane, and/or drifting off the road
We would like to urge all vehicle owners to pay more attention to the dangers of driver tiredness. Have regular rest stops to stretch your legs and have a well earned rest. Dink energy drinks along the route – but keep in mind the following:
Energy Drinks are an Aid to Driver Alertness – not a Cure for Driver Tiredness!!