If your employees spend a lot of time driving, it’s all too easy to fall into a comfortable place of driving while fatigued.

The problem is, no matter how in control your drivers may feel they are in, when they are not operating at their best, they are presenting a danger to both themselves and other road users.

According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, it is estimated that driver fatigue is responsible for as many as 20% of all road accidents. If you are aware that you have to combat fatigue, or you just want to increase road safety awareness for yourself and your employees; are here are some tips to help prevent fatigue when driving.

Common causes of driving fatigue

Here are some of the most common causes and solutions for driver fatigue:

Lack of sleep – there are few ways to compensate for the rest your body gets from a good night’s sleep. If you’re finding it difficult to put aside 8 hours for quality sleep, you need to make some lifestyle changes to accommodate it.

If you’re finding it difficult to sleep and feel rested, this is an issue you need to take up with your GP. Sleep issues affect one in three people in the UK; it’s a common problem with potentially serious implications if not addressed.

Medications – a lot of medications cause drowsiness and fatigue as a known side effect. Some people may also have this reaction, even if it’s not a listed side effect. Check any medications you’re taking or considering taking while driving. More often than not, it’s better to wait until you’re not behind the wheel.

Alcohol – avoiding alcohol the night before you drive and not drinking at all within a 24-hour period is advisable. Even a small amount of alcohol can cause drowsiness for some people. It can come on suddenly after feeling energised too, and combined with a poor night’s sleep is a recipe for tiredness.

Not taking breaks – if you’re driving for a living, you should make sure you’re aware of how many hours a day you can drive legally. You can find the latest UK laws and regulations for drivers’ hours on the Gov.uk site. If you’re driving for pleasure, then it comes down to the individual, but as a general rule, it’s not recommended you drive more than eight hours a day.

Symptoms of fatigue when driving

Here are some of the most common (and obvious) signs of fatigue:

  • Heavy eyes and struggling to keep your eyes open
  • Daydreaming and general lack of focus
  • Realising your speed keeps fluctuating
  • Feeling stiff, with aches, cramps, and pains
  • Feeling irritated and impatient with other road users

How tiredness affects driving ability

Studies have shown that being awake for 18 hours can cause someone to drive with the same degree of impairment as if they have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.05%. If you’ve been awake for 24 hours, the effects are the same as having a BAC of 0.10%. The legal BAC limit in the UK is 0.08%, so this gives you a clear indication of how dangerous sleeping while tired or fatigued is.

Driving while fatigued or overly tired can result in:

  • Poor judgment, such as miscalculating stopping distances and making dangerous manoeuvres
  • Reduced reaction time to hazards on the road
  • General lack of awareness

What you should do if you’re fatigued and tired behind the wheel

If you find yourself struggling to focus, keep your eyes open, or feel compromised in any way you should stop driving as soon as it is safe to do so. Ideally, you’ll have someone else in the car with you and they can take over. If you’re alone, you either need to recharge your batteries with a quick nap or consume a stimulant such as caffeine.

Taking a nap is the best option by far. Pushing yourself with a couple of cups of coffee is only a very short-term solution when napping isn’t an option. Never try to push through without stopping and doing something to combat your fatigue. It only takes a split second to lose concentration and cause an accident.