South Africa’s road network is a topic of both awe and dread. On the one hand, South Africa has arguably the best road infrastructure on the continent, and is often seen as the gateway to Sub-Saharan Africa. On the other hand, it is a deadly place where accidents happen and many lives are lost annually. One of the top causes of these accidents, according to research, is driver fatigue. Latest research indicates that, on South African roads, driver fatigue plays a role in as many as 20% of all accidents and 25%-30% of fatal crashes. When looking at accidents in the long-distance trucking industry, this figure sky-rockets to 60% .


What is Driver Fatigue


Driver fatigue is a very real problem on our roads and is responsible for thousands of avoidable accidents each year, which injure and kill people. What is driver fatigue? It can be best described as a state of mind where the driver becomes so tired that they are no longer able to safely operate a vehicle. The effects of driver fatigue are many and varied, but some of the most common include:


  • Yawning and rubbing of the eyes
  • Frequent blinking
  • Sore or heavy eyes
  • Daydreaming or ‘highway hypnosis’
  • Disconnection from what is happening on the road around you
  • Slow reactions to events on the road
  • Poor judgement
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Drowsiness


Most Common Causes of Driver Fatigue


Many factors can contribute to driver fatigue, but some of the most common include:


  • Prolonged periods of driving without a break
  • Driving at night or during the early hours of the morning
  • Driving in unfamiliar territory
  • Driving in heavy traffic
  • Driving in adverse weather conditions
  • Taking certain medications that can cause drowsiness
  • Not getting enough sleep the night before a long journey
  • Emotional stress and/or illness


The Effects of Driver Fatigue on South Africa's Road Network


Driver fatigue is a major contributor to the high number of accidents on our roads. This, in turn, harms our economy as it costs businesses millions of rand in lost productivity each year. The social cost of these accidents is also high, with families losing loved ones and breadwinners. In addition, there is the emotional cost which can be difficult to quantify.


What Can Be Done to Address Driver Fatigue?


Several things can be done to address driver fatigue. Some of these include:


Plan Your Journey and Take Regular Breaks


This is probably the most important thing you can do to avoid driver fatigue. When planning a long journey, make sure you allow for regular breaks. Take a break every two hours, even if you don’t feel tired.


Use a Road Trip App


There are many road trip apps available that can help you to plan your journey. These apps can provide you with information on the best routes, as well as places to stop for food and fuel.


Wear Quality Sunglasses


When driving in the sun, it is important to protect your eyes. Wearing quality sunglasses will help to reduce the glare from the sun and make it easier to see.


Avoid Driving at Night


Driving at night is more dangerous as it is harder to see things in the dark, and the monotony of the undulating darkness makes one lose concentration faster. If you can, try to avoid driving between the hours of 10 pm and 6 am. This may mean changing your plans or leaving earlier in the day, but it is worth it to avoid the increased risk of accidents.


Open the Window


Getting some fresh air into the car can help to keep you awake. If possible, open the window on the driver’s side so that you can get a breeze.


Chew Gum


This might come as a surprise but chewing gum can help to keep you awake and alert. It is also a good way to avoid snacking on unhealthy foods.


Get a Good Night’s Sleep


This may seem like an obvious one, but it is important to get enough sleep before undertaking a long journey.


Don’t Drink Alcohol

Alcohol can make you feel drowsy and will not help you stay awake. As such, it is important to avoid drinking alcohol if you are going to be driving.

Avoid Heavy Foods

Eating a heavy meal can make you feel sluggish and tired. If you are going to be driving for a long period, it is best to avoid heavy foods altogether.

Drink Plenty of Water

Staying hydrated is important for everyone, but it is especially important for drivers. Drinking plenty of water will help to keep you alert and awake.

Avoid Taking Medication That Can Cause Drowsiness


If you are taking medication that can make you drowsy, check with your doctor before driving.


Make Sure Your Vehicle is in Good Working Order


A well-maintained vehicle is less likely to break down, meaning you won’t have to pull over to the side of the road. It is also important to make sure your tyres are properly inflated and that you have enough fuel for the journey.


Share the Driving


If you are driving with someone else, take turns driving so that neither of you becomes too tired. This will also help to reduce the risk of accidents.

Sip on Coffee or Energy Drinks

If you start to feel tired, a cup of coffee or an energy drink can help to perk you up. Just be sure not to overdo it, as too much caffeine can make you feel jittery and anxious.

Be Aware of the Signs of Driver Fatigue


If you start to feel tired, pull over and take a break. By being aware of the signs of driver fatigue and taking steps to avoid it, we can make our roads safer for everyone.


Don’t Drive if You Are Tired


If you are too tired to drive, don’t do it. It is not worth the risk. Driving when tired can be just as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol. If you are too tired to drive, don’t do it. Rather stop and rest. Rather arrive late than never.


Stay Safe on Our Roads: Avoid Driver Fatigue


Driver fatigue is a major problem on our roads, but it is something that can be avoided if we are willing to take the necessary precautions. By being aware of the signs of driver fatigue and taking steps to avoid it, we can make our roads safer for everyone.


As the Easter holidays approach, many of us will be hitting the road on long trips to visit family and friends, but it is important to remember that driver fatigue can be a serious hazard. By being aware of the signs of fatigue and taking steps to avoid it, we can make our roads safer for everyone.


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