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Did you know,

that in the state of New Jersey in the USA, you can be sentenced to up to ten years in prison if you cause a fatal accident and have not slept over the past 24 hours?


Your alertness level is reduced

When driving makes you tired it affects your ability to drive safely. Your reaction times are impaired, so it takes you longer to see, assess and react to anything unexpected. Your alertness is reduced and you can overlook signals from your surroundings such as warning signs for sharp bends or roadwork. If you doze off for just two-three seconds on a motorway you could cover the entire length of a football field before you wake up.

Increasing the risk of tiredness when driving

Tiredness when driving develops over time. The further you drive, the greater the risk of impaired alertness and reaction times. Even if you are well rested and feel wide awake when you set off, the monotony of driving for any length of time will often cause tiredness.

There are also numerous factors that increase the risk of tiredness when driving:

  • Lack of sleep. Your risk increases markedly if you have not had enough sleep. And, this applies even after just one night in which you have had less sleep than usual. Be aware that one night of adequate sleep is not enough time to make up for a few days of lost sleep.
  • Sleep quality. The quality of your sleep also has an influence on the risk of tiredness when driving. Shift work, loud snoring, young children, insomnia, noise, heat, etc. can all cause poor sleep.
  • Physical fatigue. Physical fatigue may be a result of having done particularly hard physical work, strenuous exercise or other physical exertion prior to driving. Your circadian clock will also react to irregularities – if you drive at night, for example, you will have a natural tendency to feel sleepy.
  • Mental fatigue. Mental fatigue can be caused by situations in your life that demand a lot of attention and so take the focus away from driving. 

Increasing global awareness

The problem of driving and fatigue has gained increasing attention and status as a major social issue in a many countries in the form of awareness campaigns, government-funded studies and considerable scientific research, as well as legislation. In many countries laws and outcomes of courtroom trials state that it is punishable by imprisonment to cause accidents when the driver is suffering from severe fatigue.

For further information check out these links:

• Organisations and reports dealing with the problem in Want to know more?

• Traditional and social media coverage of the topic in Media focus