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How can I prevent driver fatigue?


Fatigue occurs as a result of the body not obtaining adequate rest and time to recover from activity. Driver fatigue levels are influenced by factors including:

  • work schedules and activities;
  • environmental factors;
  • social and family commitments;
  • diet;
  • quantity and/or quality of sleep;
  • other health issues.


Work Schedules and Activities

Driver fatigue can occur as a result of extended or irregular working hours, working hours when the body prefers to be at rest like at night, early morning or the early afternoon. Fatigue levels can also be increased when the work being performed is particularly strenuous or physically demanding. One way of preventing driver fatigue is to ensure that work rosters are designed to take account of the time of day and type of non-driving work that is being performed as well as the total amount of time that is being worked.


Environmental Factors

Driving into the setting sun can be uncomfortable, your eyes are strained and it requires extra concentration to see the road and other traffic. Similarly driving in the rain or in conditions of poor visibility requires extra attention. The extra mental activity associated with driving in less than optimal conditions can lead to increased fatigue levels. Drivers can sometimes reduce or prevent these environmental factors playing a part in increasing their fatigue levels by ensuring that they had a set of good polarized sunglasses or modifying their driving / break schedules to avoid the conditions. Cabins which are either too hot or too cold or noisy also increase fatigue levels so drivers should ensure that air conditioners are functional and that undue noise such as excessively loud music in the vehicle cabin is avoided.


Social and family commitments

Whilst it doesn't always seem that way, most people can choose what social activities they are involved with outside of work. Driver fatigue levels can be dramatically increased when the work / play / rest balance is not maintained. Heavy sport, social or drinking sessions can all impact on fatigue levels and drivers need to be conscious of their need to get adequate rest.

Families are important and it is crucial that everyone spends quality time with their family. Irregular or long hours can be a source of strained family relations. An effective mechanism for making time available for family is to plan in advance and to communicate the plans so that everyone involved is aware and can schedule other activities accordingly.



Diet plays an important role in driver fatigue levels. Certain foods like bananas and turkey slow the body's metabolism and should be avoided when driving. It is important the your diet be balanced. Avoiding greasy and fatty foods can be difficult on the road but it is essential that you try. Regular snacking on low GI foods is a good way of maintaining alertness and good dietary practice.

Energy drinks and caffeine can be used strategically to temporarily improve alertness levels but overuse can lead to health and sleeping problems. It is generally thought that consuming up to 300 mg of caffeine (about the amount contained in three cups of coffee) a day is safe, whereas anymore is excessive and can lead to addiction, irritability and headaches.



Insufficient quantity or quality sleep will invariably lead to driver fatigue. The average adult person requires eight (8) hours of good quality sleep per day. Teenagers require up to 12 hours. It is a common misconception that older people require less sleep than this but is it is a reality that for a variety of reasons many older people do not get as much sleep as they require. An important point to remember is that when sleep is missed, you incur a sleep debt which can only be repaid by getting sleep - the debt just doesn't go away in time. Driver fatigue can be prevented by allowing sufficient time for sleep. Your sleeping situation needs to be comfortable and the environment be dark, at a suitable temperature and quiet.


Health issues

Poor health,  being unfit or overweight can mean that driving is more taxing. Conditions such as diabetes can make you feel more tired if they are not properly managed. Sleep disorders such as sleep apneoa should always be treated as they have significant affect on the quality of the sleep that is obtained.


If you would like to know more about fatigue management the Australian Online College has a Nationally Recognised road transport industry Basic Fatigue Management course available.


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This page is about how to driver fatigue and preventing driver fatigue.

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Talei Hall
09.04.12, 02:43
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