Lifestyle Guides

Staying alert at the wheel

While most of us know it’s not sensible to drive while tired, it can be hard to combat tiredness, especially as we edge into the darker days of winter.

tired van driver

Worldwide, fatigue contributes to 10 - 20% of road crashes and while we all know tiredness can harm our ability to drive safely, it may be surprising to learn that being awake for a full 24 hours has the same effect on us as driving with double the legal limit of alcohol in our system. 

While most of us know it’s not sensible to drive while tired, it can be hard to combat tiredness, especially as we edge into the darker days of winter. 

So, whether you drive a van for a living, or you simply spend a lot of time behind the wheel of your car, take a look at our top 10 tips for keeping fatigue at bay when on the road:

  1. Sleep: An obvious cause of fatigue is lack of sleep. But it’s important to take note of when you sleep as well as how much.  If you have a regular sleep pattern, try to keep it the same on your off days. Studies show irregular schedules increase the chances of fatigue-related accidents by over 75%
  2. Hydration: Your body needs water to work well. Even mild dehydration can make you feel tired and lethargic. Keep a water bottle with you and pay attention to how much you drink throughout the day
  3. Medication: Some prescription and over-the-counter drugs can cause drowsiness and reduce alertness, and for that reason have legal driving limits. Make sure you read the small print and check out our article on legal drug driving limits
  4. Caffeine: Coffee or energy drinks can reduce driver tiredness over short periods and have been said to reduce crash risk among long-distance truck drivers by 63%. Remember that this is a short-term solution and can’t replace regular breaks and plenty of sleep
  5. Music: Turn the volume up and alternate stations to avoid your radio becoming white noise. Avoid soft music and opt for an engaging debate or lively beat
  6. Breaks: Take frequent breaks when possible. Stop at a service station and get out of your vehicle. Walk around or even do some stretching - aerobic activity can help fight stress and fatigue. Breaks of 15 minutes every two hours are ideal, so why not set alarms to remind you to take a break?
  7. Alcohol: Alcohol reduces your Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, leaving you drowsy the next day. Avoid drinking the night before a drive to keep your concentration levels sharp
  8. Food: While a hearty breakfast may be tempting as you hit the road, try to avoid heavy meals as digesting them can contribute to fatigue. Instead, consider superfoods like blueberries, which can increase brain function for up to five hours
  9. Temperature: Keep the temperature cool with an open window or air conditioning. Even in the winter, be aware of the temperature inside the van
  10. Posture: Be intentional. Drive with your head up and shoulders back and invest in a back support if this will help you stay well positioned

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