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The Creeping Killer

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

The DriveWrite Archives

The Creeping Killer

Geoff Maxted
DriveWrite
December 8, 2013


Sleepy Driver
Most older drivers would have seen from time to time as they went about their travels a roadside sign that bore the legend ‘Tiredness Can Kill’. We don’t see them so much these days though as they‘ve been replaced by those nannying overhead gantries; it’s as if it is a side-issue when there are so many other things for the agencies to peck at our heads about.

Sensible people wouldn’t dream of using a hand-held mobile when driving any more than they would consider driving when under the influence of alcohol. So why is that accidents still happen because drivers fall asleep at the wheel?

At the time of writing this the ‘winterval’ (seriously, I’d like to meet the swivel-eyed nutter who though that one up) holiday season is starting to get into full swing and families will be heading off into the wild grey yonder to see the relatives they pretty much ignore the rest of the year. For many this - along with summer hols - will be the longest drive of their year and they can often be unprepared for the dangers. For example, although experienced drivers are pretty relaxed there is still a degree of inherent tension in the act of driving. We have to be on the alert at all times. This is tiring and yet we don’t notice it.

According to recent research, more than half of drivers ignore the advice to take rest breaks every couple of hours. Perhaps they think that stopping is a bit of a pain as their destination is calling to them. Nine percent don’t stop at all no matter how arduous the trip. Many drivers admit to not ensuring they’ve had a good night’s sleep the night before. Too little sleep (say, less than five hours) and there is very good chance the driver will nod off.

It’s not as if it is much of an imposition. A ‘comfort’ break is usually required for most families - especially with children - and it a golden opportunity to get forty winks. Usually, a ten minute nap is very refreshing; provided of course that all the other people in the car keep quiet!

Needless to say, typically, it is men who are most guilty of this. Female motorists take a much more commonsense view (obviously) and only 3% of them admit to driving for six hours without a break. This is not a subject that male family members need to bring up to often unless they want the full-blown lecture. Best to just take a break as if it were the most natural thing in the world.

It is amazing how sleep creeps up on drivers. Often there are some signs - yawning, tired eyes and the like but trying to ignore it is a mistake. One minute a driver could be squeezing his eyes, the next he could be slumped at the wheel as the car leaves the road. There’s a suggestion recently that drivers who sleep at pay-to-park service stops and overstay their ticket should be allowed to pay retrospectively rather than be fined. That makes sense. If you are off for Christmas in the car soon then take heed. Ten minutes off the road is better than years off your life.



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