Tiredness Has Severe Impact on Performance
A perennial hazard on the roads is fatigue or drowsiness, also defined as "sleep-related fatigue." It is of course hard to gather data on this particular hazard because no breath or blood test can give the police any indication of fatigue, unlike, say, with the consumption of alcohol or drugs. As a result, fatigue is frequently under-estimated in statistics as a cause of accidents, hence the potential for a high number of unrecorded cases.
The fact is that fatigue and drowsiness have a major impact on a driver's performance “because they lead to impaired attention, concentration, reaction times and judgment of factors like speed or distance,” says traffic psychologist Dr. Karin Müller from DEKRA Automobil GmbH. Another risk affecting tired drivers is the "microsleep," which can occur especially on long, monotonous drives. Depending on its speed, a vehicle can cover many meters in just a few seconds. During this period, not only do drivers who have nodded off risk losing control of their vehicle and, possibly, leaving the road, but they might also fail to spot and react to other road users.
Fatigue has many causes. including a lack of sleep due to external circumstances such as shift work, medication intake or alcohol/drug abuse. Shift workers, for example, frequently have to battle fatigue and daytime drowsiness. Another reason for daytime drowsiness are sleep disorders and sleep-related respiratory dysfunction such as sleep apnoea. “If a person is diagnosed as suffering from some form of sleep disorder, it is important that the attending doctors indicate to what extent the disorder could potentially affect that person's ability to drive,” says Karin Müller.
Most importantly, you should do anything possible to avoid the risk of suffering fatigue while driving. Make sure that you get enough sleep and rest before embarking on journeys. Furthermore, it is recommended to plan enough breaks for during the journey. Physical activity also increases oxygen levels in your blood and brain, helping you to combat fatigue. “If you feel your eyelids getting heavy and that you are losing concentration, take a break at the next available opportunity. In such cases, a short rest – “power nap” – can help you to reduce the risk of causing a fatigue-induced accident,” advises Karin Müller. In addition, drivers who regularly or periodically have to take medication should definitely consult their doctor to find out whether their medication causes drowsiness. The consumption of drugs or alcohol can also – even on the day after – have an effect on driving ability and cause fatigue.