Driving when you’re tired is never going to be easy, and is rarely advisable. But we all know that there are times when you have to drive, no matter how you feel. At such times it is vital for your safety and that of other road users that you keep clear headed and avoid falling asleep at the wheel. When extremely tired, the body can have micro-sleeps, where you become drowsy or even fully asleep for anywhere between half a second and 30 seconds. These microsleeps are fine when you’re lying on the sofa, but when you’re driving at 40mph, you can’t afford even a fraction of a second of sleep at the wheel.
Although it might seem that one hour less sleep than usual won’t make a difference, this builds up over time and can lead to chronic sleepiness. The most important thing is to try hard to ensure you are well rested before you set off.
When doing long, boring stretches of motorway, it’s important to split the journey up into shorter, more manageable breaks. A good rule of thumb would be to stop at least every two hours, and every time you feel remotely drowsy – it will make your journey longer, but a lot safer. It is also important to make sure you have spoken to your doctor if you’re on any prescription medication to check if you will be okay to drive.
If you’re planning to go on an overnight journey, it might be smart to work in an overnight stop where you can sleep in a hotel and continue in the morning. You’ll wake up fresh, have a good breakfast, and continue with your journey.
While caffeine might be a quick solution to fatigue, it will not work long term and cannot act as a substitute for proper sleep. What’s more, you’re not going to feel your best after a long day of work, so avoid long drives in the evening. If you know you have a long drive coming, set out earlier in the day when you’re more awake and alert.
The peak sleepiness times are between 3am and 5am, and 2pm to 4pm, while we would all normally be asleep at 4am, the peak at between 2pm and pm4 is suprising, and also when a lot of us have to drive (school runs, shopping). The advice is that as far as possible, try to avoid driving during these times.
Driving a Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle requires constant attention, and tiredness severely reduces our ability to concentrate. Falling asleep at the wheel is really not an option, so it is necessary to ensure that you’re rested and hydrated for your journeys.
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