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The quiet killer: fatigue

   The quiet killer: fatigue

Tiredness kills.

Experiencing fatigue at work, home or the road can massively increase your chances of being in a fatal or serious accident. With the darker nights and colder weather upon us, you are more likely to feel tired when going about your daily routine.

Fatigue and road accidents

Falling asleep at the wheel is a more prevalent occurrence than most people realise. Last year, a survey of 20,000 motorists found one in eight admitted falling asleep while driving, while 37 per cent said they had been so tired they were frightened they would drop off behind the wheel. Contrary to popular belief, common remedies for tiredness while driving such as winding the window down or turning the radio up will not improve alertness. If you feel the need to employ these tactics you are probably already too tired to drive safely.

Driver fatigue causes thousands of road accidents each year; research shows that it may be a contributory factor in up to 20 per cent of road accidents and up to one quarter of fatal and serious accidents.

Sleepiness reduces reaction time (a critical element of safe driving). It also reduces vigilance, alertness and concentration so that the ability to perform attention-based activities like driving is impaired. The speed at which information is processed is also reduced by sleepiness. The quality of decision-making may also be affected.
Road accidents are more likely to occur between midnight and 6am, between 2-4pm (especially after a large meal or even just one alcoholic beverage), while driving home after working long hours, and particularly post night-shift.

You can minimise your chances of being in a road accident by making sure you are fit to drive before setting off, getting a good night’s sleep and taking regular breaks. If you do need to stop on your journey, RoSPA recommends that you drink two cups of coffee and take a 15-minute nap.

Fatigue and the workplace

For those who drive for a living, preventing fatigue from setting in can sometimes be the difference between life and death.

Earlier this year, a national newspaper reported that one in in five (21 per cent) of bus drivers in London had to “fight sleepiness” at least two or three times a week. This was revealed in a study by researchers at Loughborough University who surveyed 1,353 of London’s 25,000 bus drivers for Transport for London. The study also revealed that 35 per cent of the respondents had a “close” call on the roads due to tiredness in the past year, and 5 per cent had been in at least one accident because of fatigue.

RoSPA offers a course which helps fleet managers watch out for signs of fatigue among their drivers and avoid accidents caused by tiredness. This is part of our managing occupational road risk (MORR) course. On completion of a MORR course, delegates will be able to conduct risk assessments associated with occupational road risk, understand some of the measures appropriate to controlling the risks, and appreciate benefits associated with successfully managing occupational road risk.

You can find further information about how fatigue effects driving downloading this RoSPA factsheet.

Becky Needham, road safety and evaluation officer, RoSPA

Posted: 11/21/2019 2:15:53 PM 0 comments


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