Road safety and breakdown organisation GEM Motoring Assist is warning drivers to be watchful for the symptoms of fatigue and the risks of being behind the wheel when tired. The warning comes at the start of the 2021 summer holiday season where staycations are likely to prove more popular than ever, and families will be heading off to destinations that could be many hours’ drive away.
Already the UK is seeing some Councils who manage tourist hotspots banning traffic, angry locals applying illegal warning stickers to cars and a spate of accidents, road closures and long delays on key routes, including motorways. As the summer holiday season approaches, more jams, delays and general stress will make car journeys tough all round. The big problem with the UK motorway network is that it was built in the 1990s to cope with about 20m vehicles on UK roads. There are now 40 million vehicles registered for road use in the UK.
GEM chief executive Neil Worth commented: “At its most basic, fatigue reduces drivers’ ability to concentrate and focus on what is going around them. Safety and hazard information that’s usually interpreted immediately by a driver who is fully alert can take the fatigued driver a lot longer to get to grips with.
“There’s a lot more to understanding driver fatigue than simply nodding off at the wheel. Falling asleep is of course a form of fatigue. However, it’s the most extreme form, occurring only after a number of other, easily recognisable symptoms have been ignored.
“Your driving can be affected by fatigue long before you are so tired that you are in serious danger of falling asleep at the wheel.”
“Drivers may also find – especially on a long, dull motorway journey – that they are drifting out of their lane, changing speed more frequently and for no good reason. They may fidget in their seat in an attempt to wake up a bit. If you experience any or all of these symptoms, you must stop and rest.”
Fatigue is reckoned to be the cause of a large number of single-vehicle crashes involving a car hitting a tree or other rigid object, and severe head-on collisions. Researchers believe fatigue is involved in between 10% and 25% of all crashes and it accounts for around 20% of all serious collisions on motorways.
Driver fatigue becomes even more of a risk when it combines with other factors, such as speeding and alcohol impairment. Drink-driving is particularly dangerous in combination with fatigue, because alcohol can significantly affect a driver’s alertness long before he or she reaches the legal drink-drive limit. Any amount of alcohol can combine with fatigue to affect driving.