Microsleep can be fatal. Tips to stay awake.

dateWednesday, June 28th, 2017

More dangerous than you think: fatigue at the wheel. One in four car drivers has already fallen asleep behind the wheel. In particular on long journeys, many underestimate the problem. If your eyes are closed at 80 km/h for three seconds, you pass 66 meters without control. Thus, tiredness at the wheel can be fatal. Chief inspector Christoph Becker explains the risks and provides tips for a safe trip.

Fatigue is underestimated.

Many car drivers misunderstand the danger of fatigue at the wheel and overestimate their own abilities:

  • 45% believe that they can compensate for fatigue by their experience. But falling asleep can not be intentionally prevented.
  • 43% often drive cars at times, to which they usually sleep. But the body has difficulties to deal with irregular sleep rhythms.
  • 54% make the first break only after three to four hours or even later. But a break should be done every two hours.
  • 17% continue driving, although they realize that they are tired. But they knowingly risk both their own life and that of other people.

Do not give microsleep a chance. Tips for a safe trip.

  • Enough sleep: Sufficient sleep is the essence. The concentration is higher and the reactivity better – an important basis for a safe journey.
  • Planning: Schedule plenty of time. If you have a long journey ahead, you should include a time buffer and, if necessary, include an overnight stay in the planning.
  • Take breaks: Listen to your own body. It is best to take a break, relax or move actively every two hours.

Fatigue signs. With these signals indicate that it is urgent to take a break:

  • Frequent yawning
  • Burning eyes
  • Increased blinking
  • Heavy eyelids
  • Narrow view (tunnel view)
  • Difficulties to remain on track
  • Blurry memory of the last kilometers
  • Tailgating the preceding vehicle
    Take a break in acute fatigue! Tips for a relaxing journey.

When acute fatigue hits take a break! Tips to continue the journey fresh and relaxed.

  • Stop: at first signs of fatigue, park in a suitable place and either sleep or move around.
  • Quick sleep: Reset the backrest, close your eyes, breathe regularly and relax. A maximum of 30 minutes is sufficient to continue recovered. After 45 minutes the sleeper enters the deep sleep phase, which makes waking up harder. If you want, you can have a coffee before sleeping. The caffeine does not take effect until about 30 minutes, so it does not prevent you from falling asleep, but helps you to wake up.
  • Movement: Use oxygen to refuel and activate the blood circulation. For example, stretch your body and limbs or make steps on the curb. Only a few minutes of movement in the fresh air are enough to feel awake again for a short time.

Stimulant myths. These alleged tricks do not help to combat fatigue:

  • Pinch oneself
  • Open a window
  • Chewing bubble gum
  • Listening to loud music
  • Consuming coffee/energy drinks

Written by Christoph Becker

Police chief inspector and road safety consultant at police Münster.
The department for road safety of police Münster informs drivers of commercial goods and persons free by sending regular "information-mails". We will keep you up-to-date on news and changes in the social rules (driving and rest periods). Information on digital recording equipment, cargo securing and anything that might be important to you, we will pass on to you.
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E-mail: vsb.muenster@polizei.nrw.de



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