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Driving when tired: 3 Effective Ways to Avoid Driver Fatigue

Driving fatigue refers to the driver’s muscle relaxation and mental fatigue after a long period of highly concentrated driving, and a decrease in the ability to react and anticipate by hand and foot, which in turn produces a slow movement. There is also another saying that driving fatigue is a transition from wakefulness to a sleep state, that is, if the fatigue state does not change, it will produce sleep. This article will introduce driving fatigue and remind you how to avoid it as much as possible.

How-to-avoid-driver-fatigue

The Consequences of Driver Fatigue are Serious

Driver Fatigue Accidents are More than Expected

Driver fatigue accidents are more than expected, according to a study by the American Automobile Association. Investigators tracked the driving habits of more than 3,500 people between October 2010 and December 2013 through cameras and other equipment installed on vehicle dashboards and found that fatigued driving caused many more accidents than the federal government had anticipated.

In total, survey respondents were involved in 700 crashes during the survey period, 9.5 percent of which were confirmed to be caused by fatigued driving. That means that about 1 in 10 crashes were caused by fatigued drivers, indicating that driver fatigue accidents are more than expected.

Not only Traffic Accidents, but also Legal Liability

On the one hand, a fatigued driver may be responsible for the potential accidents mentioned above; on the other hand, if you happen to be a commercial driver, there is also the possibility of breaking the law by driving while fatigued. Because in the United States, drivers who drive fatigued may face serious penalties.

The government has several regulatory measures for fatigue driving.

First, it clarifies the determination of fatigue driving, which includes the determination of driving time, working time, and rest time for operating drivers.

According to the U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, Part 395, an operating driver must have 8 hours of continuous rest after 10 hours of driving time or 15 hours of work time per day; a driver’s work time may not exceed 60 hours in a total of 7 consecutive days or 70 hours in a total of 8 consecutive days. Among them, the operating driver’s working hours include not only driving time but also driving waiting time and vehicle refueling, and other required time.

Second, it develops the driving log system. To ensure that operating vehicle drivers comply with the driving time limit, the government requires operating drivers to stop every 24 hours to fill out a driving log printed by the Federal Ministry of Transportation.

The driver is required to fill in the driving log of the start time, stopping time, location, maximum speed, and other content, in order to be subject to corporate inspection and police supervision at any time.

If an operating driver is found to have failed to complete a driving log or to have tampered with vehicle tachograph data, the driver will be subject to a hefty fine or, in severe cases, the suspension of his or her driver’s license.

In addition, the D.C. government has added a mandatory 8-hour suspension for passenger vehicles and a mandatory 10-hour suspension for freight vehicles for this situation.

Therefore, no matter what kind of car we drive, we should try to avoid fatigue driving, otherwise, the consequences may be serious.

Driving-when-tired-How-to-avoid-driver-fatigue

How to Identify Driver Fatigue

Causes of Driver Fatigue

In the remainder of the survey report mentioned at the beginning of the article, the following is mentioned. First, 29% of the drivers surveyed admitted that they had been in situations where they were too tired to keep their eyes open while driving.

Second, in the absence of sleep, drinking coffee, rolling down the windows, and singing loudly also make it difficult to stay awake consistently. Finally, almost 70 percent of crashes caused by fatigued drivers occur during the day, and more than half of those drivers are in the 16-24 age group.

Based on these findings, although there are many causes of driving fatigue, such as stress, physical health, driving experience, etc., the most influential factors come from the following three aspects.

  1. Insufficient Sleep Time

In recent years, there has been a tendency to focus on how to reduce and avoid distracted driving, but little attention has been paid to fatigued driving. One possible reason for this is that it is difficult to determine how many traffic accidents are caused by drivers falling asleep.

But the fact is that drivers should get at least seven to eight hours of sleep each night anyway, and Jake Nelson, director of traffic safety advocacy and research, notes that “losing two to three hours of sleep can increase the risk of a crash by a factor of four, the equivalent of a DUI (Driving Under Influence).”

In addition, the poor quality of sleep is also one of the reasons for the lack of sleep. In contemporary times many young drivers are in a state of prolonged late nights, watching movies, playing games, and playing mahjong at night and other social activities.

Weeks or months of late nights and early starts can lead to a state of suboptimal health, which makes driving fatigue inevitable. It explains why more than half of the drivers who cause car accidents due to lack of sleep are in the 16-24 age group.

  1. Continuous Driving

In addition, when a driver is in a long period of continuous driving, even if the driver is in a healthy state, he or she will experience a state of fatigue of varying duration. If this state lasts for several days, it will eventually lead to cumulative driving fatigue. In mild cases, the problem of biological clock disruption will occur, requiring a long period of adjustment. In serious cases, it leads to serious traffic accidents, resulting in the loss of property or even personal safety.

This aspect is particularly evident in the truck driver community. Under the influence of employers’ urgency and high income, many truck drivers must carry out long hours of continuous driving.

During the car’s journey, the driver always needs to pay attention to the vehicle’s surroundings. Therefore, the driver’s brain nerves are constantly in a state of excitement, which in turn very easy to produces mental fatigue. At the same time, the driver’s body becomes stiff and fatigued as he or she keeps moving the vehicle.

Riemersma’s research provides further scientific evidence for this. The results of the study found that after prolonged driving, the driver’s heart rate decreases, and sympathetic nerve activity increases, indicating an increase in fatigue. This study demonstrates that there are indeed certain characteristic physiological signals that can be used as relatively accurate indicators of driving fatigue.

  1. Night driving

In terms of time, although there are factors that can always cause driving fatigue, driving at night usually consumes more energy of the driver. While driving in the morning, drivers are more likely to be sleepy due to hunger or digestion after a meal. And visual impairment is more severe when driving at dusk. Nevertheless, driving at night, especially at midnight, is much more difficult.

On the one hand, the dim light at night makes drivers need to be more careful than during the day to watch the oncoming traffic, and thus more likely to enter a state of fatigue. The biggest difference between night driving and day driving is that the environmental conditions have changed. The daytime environment is conducive to driving, as people’s vision is not particularly affected.

But at night, the visible range of driving is much smaller, and the surrounding reference becomes more blurred. Therefore, the driver usually determines the driving situation based on the lights of the car. For example, if there is a junction or curve ahead, the driver will find that the light of the vehicle ahead suddenly disappears. Therefore, driving at night consumes more energy for the driver.

On the other hand, flashing lights make drivers more likely to feel drowsy. At night, unlike daytime when there is natural light, it is all flashing lights on the roads at night. The continuous flashing of lights can easily cause visual fatigue and make people’s emergency ability weaken.  With the reflection of lights around at night, it is sometimes difficult for the driver to judge the direction and creating a slight sense of dizziness and drowsiness. In addition, at night, the human’s body functions are reduced, which often leads to spontaneous fatigue.

WOLFBOX-How-to-avoid-driver-fatigue

Driver Fatigue Symptoms

Driving fatigue can be divided into two categories: behavioral and psychological characteristics in terms of how it manifests itself. And the characteristics manifested differ depending on the driver’s level of fatigue. See the table below for details of driver fatigue symptoms.

Behavioral characteristics Behavioral characteristics of mild fatigue increased blinking
intermittent yawning
slight discomfort in the limbs
Behavioral characteristics of moderate fatigue frequent blinking and frequent eye rubbing
frequent head nodding
inability to shift gears accurately and timely
slight drowsiness in the head
Behavioral characteristics of severe fatigue dry eyes and longer closing time
frequent yawning
slow reaction
inability to concentrate
stiff limbs
subconscious steering wheel manipulation
Psychological characteristics Long years of driving experience and self-perceived skillfulness in driving
fluke’s mentality about traffic accidents
dual pressure from work and family

You need to pay particular attention when you are driving and the corresponding driver fatigue symptoms, especially of a more severe degree, appear.

Driver Fatigue Tips

For the above-mentioned causes of driving fatigue, here are some driver fatigue tips for you to deal with them.

Ensure Adequate Sleep

As mentioned above, the best way to avoid fatigue is to ensure sufficient rest time. The body rule of humans is to ensure at least seven to eight hours of optimal sleep a day. According to the natural laws of the human body, most people need to ensure at least seven to eight hours of sleep a day. Only when you get enough sleep before driving a car can you be sure to have plenty of energy during the process of driving a vehicle.

Ensure Regular Breaks

It is also important to note that if driving for a long period of time is necessary, what you can do is ensure regular breaks during the whole period, therefore, maintain sufficient energy and mental concentration to deal with some unexpected situations during the journey.

Specifically, after driving a certain distance or time (in general, the best driving time should not exceed two hours), the driver needs to stop and take a break for about 20 minutes, to look into the distance, twist and turn the body, relax, and unwind the ankles.

If you are worried that sometimes you forget to take regular breaks because you are too focused on driving, you can consider a car accessory with a fatigue driving reminder function, such as a car recorder, to give you a driver fatigue alarm. Take our Wolfbox G900 for example, after setting the menu to open the fatigue driving reminder function, the car recorder will beep every hour to give you a driver fatigue alarm. And at this time, you will conveniently know it is time to go to rest.

Create a Comfortable Driving Environment

As mentioned earlier, it is advised for drivers to avoid nighttime driving if conditions permit. But in fact, most drivers may have to drive after sunset because of commuting or commercial needs. So, in this case, what we can do is try to create a comfortable driving environment, to make the driving process consume as little of our energy as possible.

First, speed control is the most effective method. High-speed driving is easy to make the driver nervous. Driving at a slightly lower-than-normal speed can reduce mental stress and reduce fatigue effectively. Also, for driving comfort, you can try to overtake and brake less.

Second, adjusting the seat to make the sitting position more comfortable is also helpful. For the vehicle seat without a lumbar support function, you can add a lumbar cushion in the back and seat gap, which effectively relieves the pressure on your lumbar spine. In addition, the seat may also need to be adjusted to the most appropriate position.

On the one hand, when your arms are straight, the wrists are needed to just rest on the steering wheel above the spokes; on the other hand, when the forefoot is on the clutch pedal, there is the space needed to let the whole leg maintain a certain degree of bending.

Also, if rolling down the windows, playing different styles of music, chewing gum or any other driver fatigue tip helps you, you can try that too, as long as you can get a more comfortable driving experience.

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