Beware festive drowsiness

At the end of November, six people were killed in an accident in Mpumalanga. It was believed that fatigue was the cause of the crash. Despite the continued awareness brought to the dangers of driving while tired, drivers continue to do it. Fatigued driving continues to be underestimated even though it is thought to be just as, possibly even more, dangerous as drunk driving.

The CEO of MasterDrive, Eugene Herbert, says despite this research, it does not receive as much attention as driving under the influence. “If you are driving to a holiday destination or to visit family for the festive period, ensure you know exactly how dangerous it is and take all the necessary steps so that you or your family does not become a victim of this dangerous occurrence.

“Start by ensuring you do not leave all your holiday preparation to the day, or worse the night, before. Do it early enough that there is time to unwind the day before leaving and that you have an early night. Wake up rested and ready to take on the day of driving.”

There are a number of other things you can do to reduce your risk of drowsy driving as much as possible. “If you can, travel with another person who can share driving responsibilities with you. Each person should drive for approximately two hours each before swapping. If you are the only driver, still stop every two hours for a break from driving, to stretch your legs and possibly get something healthy to eat and drink.

“If you are driving with children, ensure they are stimulated and have enough to keep them entertained. Even though they may not be behind the wheel, driving tires them out just as much as you. Pack or plan plenty of games that can be played in the car as well as other activities such as colouring. If it will not be a distraction to you, include some technology in their entertainment such movies on tablets.”

Lastly, make healthy choices. “Pack snacks that prioritise satiety and avoid sugar rushes. Do not rely on fast food and convenience store snacks as these often do not provide good options for a day in the car. Rather pack additional protein, fruits and lots of water to be sure you have healthy snacks readily available.

“Something else to be cautious of is caffeinated drinks. For some, these do not affect alertness negatively and are an essential to stay energised throughout the trip. For others, it gives an initial burst of energy and later results in a slump in energy. Be aware of how caffeine affects you and keep this in mind before making your drink choices.”

Do no underestimate the danger drowsy driving presents. “Instead, be aware of it and make the right choices to avoid it and then handle it correctly if it does happen. Never ignore it,” says Hebert