• What are the risks?
• What should you do?
• What plans should you make?
Whenever undertaking a long journey, but particularly during the holiday season when driving in the heat, on days with long hours of daylight, be aware of the dangers of traveling when you are tired and carefully manage those risks, ideally before you set off.
We are all aware of the fact that being tired affects our concentration and this problem is amplified when you are required to concentrate on something else, especially driving, which is always potentially hazardous, even when you’re feeling fresh.
Driving when tired reduces your ability to take in what’s going around you and, on the road ahead, which means that absorbing safety, traffic and general driving information that’s usually processed quickly and easily when you’re fully alert, is that much more difficult and crucially, takes longer.
While in the most extreme situation there is the risk of falling asleep, with the obviously potentially disastrous consequences that could follow, other, more subtle effects can also come into play. These can include ‘zoning out’, which is particularly a symptom of driving on motorways or long stretches of featureless road, and can lead to you drifting in and out of your lane, or to speeding up and slowing down without any traffic related reason. These effects are made worse if you’ve also recently consumed alcohol.
So, if you feel tired, or realise you’re starting to drive erratically, rather than pressing on to try and to reach your destination, you must stop and rest, but it’s also essential that you park where it is safe and legal to do so.
Make sure you get plenty of sleep beforehand and, where possible, plan to drive when you're normally awake, so that your body is in sync with its normal pattern. Also, if you’re not pressed for time, use a route with fewer motorway stretches, as these are more stimulating when behind the wheel.
In addition, stop and take a break from driving as often as you need to and either get a little sleep or take a walk around to get your body moving a bit. After all, it’s better to arrive a little later than you planned, than not get there at all!
Finally, try not to eat too much before you set off, as this can increase the risk of tiredness, but ensure you have plenty of water and, although it will not affect you immediately, this can be supplemented by a cup of coffee or other caffeinated drink to help you feel a little more alert.