• Sleep. Make sure you get enough sleep before your drive.
• Pull over. If you’re feeling tired while driving, pull over to a safe place and take a nap or spend the night in a hotel. Sleep is the only cure for tiredness.
• Be cautious. If you suspect someone else is driving drowsy on the road, keep alert, drive courteously and don’t get angry.
• Be polite, even if other drivers are not. If another driver challenges you, take a deep breath and move out of the way.
•Keep your eyes on the road. Don’t provoke an aggressive driver further by making negative eye contact or gesturing.
•Show them they can’t distract you from driving safely.
• Always be courteous. Set an example for other drivers.
• Take all safety measures. The Number One passenger safety precaution is to make sure everyone is properly buckled up.
STAY CALM BEHIND THE WHEEL
• Plan ahead. Allowing yourself enough travel time will prevent a time crunch.
• Obeying the speed limit ensures proper traffic flow.
• Identify alternate routes to avoid traffic congestion on busier roads.
• Just be late. Being late is better than endangering your life or the life of someone else.
• Drive sober. Absolutely never drink and drive.
•Keep the children kids content. With young children, take regular stops and bring plenty of items to keep them occupied.
• Don’t let traffic congestion get you flustered. Remember that traffic congestion is a fact of life, a part of driving and best handled with a calm attitude.
FATIGUE FACT FILE
BRITISH research on road accidents has showed the following:
Sleep-related accidents are three times more likely to result in serious injury or death than other road accidents because sleepy drivers do not brake to try to prevent an accident, thus making the impact worse.
The “danger” time for falling asleep at the wheel is between 4am and 6am when a motorist is 13 times as likely to have a sleep-related accident as someone who is driving in the middle of the morning or early evening. Mid-afternoon (2pm-4pm) is also a danger “spike”.
Eleven per cent of all highway accidents happen between 4am and 6am — surprising, as traffic density is about a fifth of the average daily level during this time.
Twenty per cent of all highway accidents happen on the hard shoulder — fatigue is known to play a part in a number of these.
The greatest incidence of sleep-related accidents occurs when the driver has been awake for more than 18 hours.
Highway accidents, which might be caused by sleepiness, are frequently categorised under other headings such as “inattention” or “perceptual error” although fatigue may have caused the driver to make these mistakes in the first place. Fear of prosecution and difficulties with insurance claims may deter many motorists from admitting that.
Some researchers claim that motorists can suffer from “highway hypnosis” — a trance-like state induced by the monotony of highways.
Interesting billboards, landscaping or even engineering features can help alleviate monotony.
Sleep apnoea, a medical condition which can result in “micro-sleeps”, is fairly common. Studies show that sufferers are seven times more likely to have a road accident than normal drivers.
Sleep, however, is not something over which drivers have no control. Accepting the need for rest and recognising the signs, and acting on them, could help to avoid accidents.
Driver sleepiness is thought to cause at least 10 per cent of all road accidents. In some countries, this figure is higher.
Many of these accidents involve trucks and goods vehicles.
Most sleep-related accidents happen on highways and trunk roads.
Falling asleep at the wheel is preceded by feelings of extreme sleepiness, which drivers are aware of, but often ignore.
Men aged 18-30 are most at risk, and account for around 50 per cent of sleep-related accidents. The early morning victims are usually young men, the early afternoon culprits older men.
WHAT THE SLEEP EXPERTS FOUND
BRITAIN’S leading Sleep Research Centre at Loughborough University has investigated many aspects of driver sleepiness and shown that such accidents are avoidable. If you’re feeling sleepy while driving, the Loughborough Sleep Research Centre, Britain, recommends you should:
• find a safe parking place at the earliest opportunity;
• drink one or two cans of a functional energy or caffeine drink. If possible, take a short nap or doze for no longer than 15 minutes — this gives the drink time to take effect. Two cans of such drinks will eliminate sleepiness for another 90 minutes after the drink takes effect. But no longer. This only works if the coffee or caffeine drink has about 80mg of caffeine in it. Most commercial coffee drinks have much less; and,
• you should not resume driving if you’re still sleepy.
Winding down the windows, turning up the radio and exercising are refreshing but have little effect in overcoming sleepiness.
Nevertheless, drivers should get adequate sleep and not view functional energy drinks as a substitute for sleep.
WHAT PEOPLE DO
HOME-MADE solutions to drowsiness at the wheel range from bizarre to overwhelming. The Loughborough Sleep Research Centre’s surveys found the following:
• One man put drawing pins under an elastic band around his wrist to stay awake.
• An airline stewardess shut her hair in the sunroof so that if she nodded off, she would jerked back as her head fell forward.
• A lorry driver admitted that he stood up in his cab to remain awake.
• Several people suck lemons.
• Many people recite the sexual exploits out loud to keep themselves awake.
• Gizmos include the Nap Zapper, a device that clips behind the ear like a hearing aid. If it detects the driver’s head nodding, it emits a loud beep.
• Another gadget, the AM2000, plugs into the cigarette lighter socket and emits a series of loud audible and visible warnings on a timed sequence.
AVOID DROWSY DRIVING
• Drive only when rested. Don’t take the wheel if you feel tired, no matter when or where you are driving. Sleep or exercise first, avoid or delay the trip, or let a rested person drive.
• Keep your mind alert. Listen to talk shows or up-tempo music. Try to have company on long trips. Change position frequently, keeping your head up and shoulders back. Chew gum.
• Actively watch road signs and traffic.
• Find a safe place to stop. On a long trip, every couple of hours or if you start to feel sleepy, pull off the road for a break, exercise and fresh air. When possible, spend the night at a hotel or stop in a safe place to take a nap. Don’t rely on coffee!
• Be careful about what you eat and drink. Coffee, sugar or other stimulants may wake you up physically but they do not ensure mental alertness. Drink water, juice or soft drinks low in sugar and caffeine.
• Choose high-protein snacks over heavy or fatty foods such as fries. Avoid alcohol and medications (including cold remedies). If you require medication, consult with your doctor to minimise effects on driving.
• Drive defensively. Be prepared to prevent collisions in spite of the actions of others — including drivers around you who may be drowsy.
ARE YOU ROADWORTHY?
DRIVERS must be physically healthy and mentally alert. You need stamina, concentration and decisiveness. Before rolling down the road on a long trip, check out the following list to see whether you are really up to the mark:
• Did you have a restful night prior to the trip? Make sure you did not take any medication that might cause drowsiness later on. Strictly avoid taking tranquillizers.
• You should feel fresh, and not too hungry or too full.
• Persons suffering from epilepsy or intestinal disorders should resign themselves to passenger seats. Extremely shortsighted drivers should also do likewise.
• Let others drive if you are not feeling well or sleepy.
• Do not drive if you are in an angry or depressed mood, deeply worried about certain things, or desperately want to reach your destination in a rush.
• Your attire must be comfortable. Shoes with good ventilation are recommended. Avoid clothes that are too tight. Pants are probably best for ladies.
• Take along sunglasses.
• Plan breaks throughout your trip. Plan stops to get out of your vehicle and stretch every couple of hours.
IS YOUR CAR ROADWORTHY?
MALAYSIANS are sadly notorious for not maintaining our cars. Before the long drive, check the following:
• Get up-to-date with servicing, routine maintenance some two to three weeks before the trip. Also, check tyre condition.
• A day or two before, fill up on petrol, air, water, oil, brake and clutch, windscreen washer fluids. Check tyre pressure. Check the spare tyre and toolbox. Check seatbelt tensions. Check all the lights, wipers and horn. Use your car manual as a guide.
• Pack a powerful torchlight and a first-aid kit.
• Arrange luggage in an orderly fashion. Secure everything down. Nothing in the boot or inside the car should be moving around. It’s highly distracting.
• Don’t overload the car with people or luggage. Engines have to work harder when cars are overloaded, also they will consume more fuel. It will take a longer distance and more time to bring an overloaded car to a complete stop and its stability will also be adversely affected. This is a major factor in road accidents.
• While driving, make sure to let fresh air in. This will help with the air quality inside your vehicle. It is recommended to open one window for 10 seconds every hour during your trip.
• Invest in an emergency kit: jumper cables, a flare (or light, strobe bar), a fire extinguisher (rated for Fuel, Electrical and Dry fires), a HELP or Call Police! sign, a red rag (for putting in the window in case of breakdown), extra fuses (check vehicle manual for the type that your vehicle uses), tyre inflator and sealant, a heavy-duty stretch tie down cord and a rain poncho.
• Gas up as soon as you hit quarter tank. This will give you enough time to find a gas station and a driving break.
ARE YOU A DANGEROUS DRIVER?
IF you fit any or all the following descriptions, you are highly likely to be in an accident:
• Beating red lights, dashing through amber.
• Driving, not stopping, through stop signs when there’s apparently no other cars.
• Talking on the cell phone while driving.
• Eating and drinking with one hand while driving, and trying to clean up spills while driving.
• Being oblivious to other drivers and pedestrians while aggressively searching for parking space.
• Getting frustrated while driving behind SUVs or other large, tall vehicles that obstruct your view.
• Driving carefully in police presence but not otherwise.
• Being oblivious to driving while engrossed with music and radio.
• Getting aggressive with loud music.
• Getting into confrontations —- verbal arguments, hand gestures — because of your own driving or of others.
• A work-hard-play-hard lifestyle that leaves you sleepy behind the wheel.
• Talking, taking your eyes off the road when driving with passengers, especially with small children.
ACCIDENT? MY FOOT!
BET you never thought of this: shoes, or no shoes, are a factor in road accidents.
The foot must have a “feel of the pressure needed by the pedals” to achieve the desired braking or acceleration. Platform shoes or clogs with hard heels are no good because they obstruct the feeling required by the feet to operate the pedals correctly.
Both accelerator and brake pedals are worked with the heel on the floor. Wearing high-heeled shoes will hamper the operation of the pedals.
Slippers are bad, too. The rear part of the slipper bends and gets caught under the pedal or under the floor mat near the pedal.
Driving barefoot — although providing the maximum feel of the pedals — might result in injury on the feet. Slight pain in the foot might hinder you from stepping hard on the brakes in case of emergency. In an accident, you may need to tread on broken glass barefoot.
Socks or stockings are slippery on the pedals.
The best footwear to use while driving is designed for this purpose. Driving shoes are available in the market but you may already have one that will do just fine.
Here are some features to look for:
• the sole of the shoe should be medium thick, medium firm and should have enough grip on the pedal to avoid slipping.
• it should be lightweight to enable easy movement;
• it should not hinder ankle movement in working various pedals; and,
• it should not be unnecessarily wide as to cause stepping on two pedals at the same time.
Basic gym or walking shoes is good for driving. These provide enough feeling on the feet and are firm and thick enough to give you the exact pressure needed for braking and acceleration. Good for long drives.