Let’s face it, driving can frequently be a tiring business. Little wonder that experts believe fatigue is a contributory factor to one-in-five accidents. The issue has become so serious that Highways England recently announced it will design roads with panoramic views and stimulating sculptures.
As part of its £15bn Road Investment Strategy, the organisation that runs Britain’s major highways wants to ensure roads help alleviate the monotony of a long journey. See what the experts have to say. And read on for tips to tackle tiredness when driving.
How roads can combat fatigue
Highways England designs new or upgraded roads according to a set of principles laid out in the Design Manual for Roads and Bridges (available at all good book shops). First published in 1992, it is undergoing a revamp of its own, which will be completed by March 2020.
As part of the update, good design will be used to make roads safer and reflect ‘the beauty of the natural, built and historic environment through which it passes, and enhancing it wherever possible.’
Mike Wilson, chief engineer for Highways England, told the Daily Mail: “Creating different vistas, different environments for people to consider, is a way of stimulating the road user. You might argue they’re safer because of it.”
“Fatigue is a real challenge for road users. Interesting views can help them stay awake,” he added.
Roads with a view
Highways England says one way to help keep drivers alert is to give them a view worth driving for. As it rolls out £15 billion’s worth of improvements to motorways and major A-roads by 2021, it will attempt to make beautiful landscapes visible.
One such recent upgrade was to the A21 in Kent. Completed last summer, the £70m project transformed a single carriageway road to two lanes, between Tonbridge and Pembury. Rather than try to flatten the landscape, the road rises and falls and twists and turns, giving drivers a better view and keeping them active at the wheel.
So-called statement structures, such as the Angel of the North in Gateshead and the Willow Man in Somerset, are other examples of how journeys might be enlivened.
Dangers of driving tired
The government says one in five accidents on major roads are fatigue-related. These are more likely to result in a fatal or serious accident.
The peak times for accidents are in the early hours and after lunch. Men under 30-years old have the highest risk of falling asleep at the wheel. About 40 per cent of sleep-related accidents involve commercial vehicles.
Tired when driving? Try these tips
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) says drivers need to recognise the symptoms of fatigue and take preventative measures.
Symptoms can include difficulty focussing, frequent blinking and the feeling of having heavy eyelids. If you are yawning, restless, your thoughts are wandering, or you can’t remember the last few miles you’ve driven, it’s also time to take a break.
10 tips to stay alert when driving
- Plan your journey and allow for rest stops if it is longer than two hours
- Get plenty of rest beforehand, particularly if setting off early in the morning: at least seven to eight hours’ sleep is recommended
- If driving late in the day, having a nap before setting off can help alertness
- Plan long journeys to include a 15-minute rest break after every two hours
- If fatigue kicks in before, plan for a rest stop as soon as possible
- Winding down the window, listening to music or talking won’t stop tiredness
- Once stopped, a 15-minute sleep is more effective than getting out of the vehicle and walking around
- It’s important to stay hydrated, but a caffeinated drink, such as coffee or an energy drink, have been found to reduce fatigue and the crash-risk over short periods
- If you drive for work, remember that safety comes before deadlines. Employers should have a policy on health and safety that makes it clear safety is the priority.
- If all else fails, stop the car for a longer sleep or book into accommodation and have a proper sleep
More driving advice: How to stay safe when driving at night