Staying alert to fatigue

State Insurance is alerting drivers heading away for summer holidays to the dangers of fatigue when driving long distances.

“Enthusiasm for the great Kiwi holiday can sometimes mask tiredness and increase the risk of fatal mistakes being made by drivers on our highways and byways,” says State GM Customer Delivery Kevin Hughes.

“This is a time of year to take more care, rather than less, in order to avoid a tragedy,” Mr Hughes says.

“Impatience sometimes coupled with fatigue can be a lethal mix,” he says, and this is why State has campaigned regularly under the ‘driver reviver’ banner to raise awareness of the risks associated with driving while tired.

While there are no State sponsored rest stops over the Christmas/New Year period, State is still promoting the message that drivers need to take care.

“Many people are busy right up to the time they head off on their holidays, and some will be driving in situations they are less familiar with – for example in fully loaded cars, campervans or  towing trailers, caravans or boats.

“In such circumstances it’s far better to take your time and get to your destination, than to rush and not get there at all.

“Our biggest wish is for a safe and happy holiday for everyone,” says Mr Hughes.

To help combat the risks, State offers the following advice:

Combating driver fatigue

Fatigue can happen long before you fall asleep at the wheel. It can affect your reaction time, your ability to concentrate and your general understanding of the traffic around you.

Whether you’re travelling long distances for work, going on holiday, or driving home after a long day at work, here are some handy tips to help you recognise the signs of fatigue and get to your destination safely.

Watch out for signs of fatigue when you’re driving, including:

  • Feeling drowsy
  • Yawning
  • Sore, heavy eyes, blurred or dim vision
  • Impatience, lack of concentration or slow reactions
  • Wandering over the centre-line or road edge
  • Droning or humming in your ears
  • Sweaty hands, hunger, thirst, stiffness or cramp
  • Poor gear changes
  • Change in driving speeds

Ask a passenger to help you look out for these signs too.

Tips to avoid driver fatigue

Plan ahead – map out your trip and look out for places you’ll be able to stop along the way for frequent breaks.

Get a good night’s sleep – eight hours the night before you go is preferable. Napping can help, but keep it to 20 minutes or so and make sure you’re fully awake before you set off again.

Fresh air helps you stay awake – open the windows while driving.

Rich, heavy meals and sugar make you tired – pack some fruit and stick to light fresh food.

Don’t go it alone – take someone with you to help you stay alert and watch for signs of fatigue.

Flying can make you tired – if possible, avoiding driving for several days following long-distance air travel

Avoid driving during the hours when you would normally be sleeping or napping.

Don’t drink and drive -even small amounts of alcohol will make fatigue much worse, especially if you’re already tired.

Take a break and stay safe on the road.

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