What You Can Do to Stay Alert Behind the Wheel | Western Cape Government

What You Can Do to Stay Alert Behind the Wheel

(Western Cape Government)

Know the signs of driver fatigueAlcohol and drugs can have devastating effects on our driving ability, but did you know driver fatigue can be just as dangerous?
When a person driving a vehicle becomes so tired that it impairs his or her driving, it is known as driver fatigue. It causes a feeling of being tired or exhausted that causes difficulty in moving your arms, legs and other muscles. It makes you less alert, affects your hand-eye co-ordination and could result in you driving more recklessly.

Fatigue affects everyone and is one of the leading causes of motor vehicle accidents, particularly in long-distance freight, bus and taxi operations. The N1 highway between Laingsburg and Beaufort West, and the R61 between Beaufort West and Aberdeen have been dubbed “roads of death” due to the high number of serious and fatal crashes that occur along their stretches. The R27 West Coast Road, which is a hotspot for speeding, is another potentially dangerous road for tired drivers.

The number of public transport vehicle crashes in the Western Cape has declined as a result of several effective campaigns. The ongoing fatigue management project continues to stop public transport vehicles at night on “the roads of death” between 20:00 and 08:00 to check whether drivers and vehicles are complying with the law. Project team members also talk to drivers at weighbridges about the impacts of driver fatigue and assess the physical fitness of these drivers.

Although driver fatigue is typically linked with long-distance driving, it can also set in after a long day at work or a family outing. Things like emotional stress, illness or boredom can also lead to fatigue, as well riding in an overheated or very cold vehicle.

Driver Fatigue can be very dangerous. Know the signsYou're likely to be tired when: 

  • You cannot keep your eyes open and you struggle to stay focused.
  • You yawn frequently and you miss road signs and exits.
  • You drift between lanes.
  • You feel irritable and restless.
  • You struggle to keep your head up. 
  • You find yourself daydreaming and your mind drifts often.

What you can do to prevent driver fatigue and arrive safely at your destination 

  • Plan your journey well in advance. 
  • Always get a good night’s sleep before your trip.
  • Don’t drive during your body’s downtime (generally between 01:00 and 05:00).
  • Never use alcohol or drugs before your trip.
  • Avoid sleeping tablets the night before you leave.
  • Take short breaks along the way: a 20 minute stop-over at least every two hours or every 200 km.
  • Get out and stretch your legs at a safe place along the road.
  • Wear good quality sunglasses that won’t strain your eyes.
  • Avoid eating big, heavy meals.
  • Make sure there are no leaking exhaust fumes.
  • Keep the temperature in the vehicle cool: if it’s too hot or too cold it can make you feel even more tired.

Do not underestimate the impact that being tired has on your ability to drive safely. Stop and rest at safe, designated areas if you're feeling tired while driving – it could save your life and the lives of your passengers.

Watch the new Don’t Drive While Tired video clip: 

Visit Safely Home’s website for more road safety tips.

The content on this page was last updated on 30 June 2015