Here are some of the simple facts:
- The majority of incidents result from a loss of concentration
- Fatigue causes or contributes to reduced attention levels
- It’s not just you. Others around you will be affected too
- Understand the risks. Act early to counter it
- We all need adequate sleep; there is no substitute
- Long hours behind the wheel can dull the senses
- Long straight roads, familiar journeys close to home or office exacerbates risks
- Black coffee or stimulants only delay the inevitable slightly. You need adequate sleep
- Know and value yourself. ‘Manage the risks’
How much does this affect your drivers? Do your policies add to or reduce the risks? Concentration is defined as ‘total application of mind and body to one particular endeavour, to the exclusion of all else’. It is a sound principle, but in reality that isn’t the way that we human beings operate:
- Total focus is simply not normal or natural. We cannot act like a computer
- There is a limit as to how long we stay ‘on track’ before the mind wanders
- When fresh and alert we can pay attention for longer
- When tired, bored, or distracted, attention span is severely limited
- Severe pressures, health issues, and alcohol will exacerbate effects
- What is it that affects your concentration most of all? Know your risks
There are times where simply letting the mind wander to work or family issues, even for a moment, can result in an incident. One of the reasons for maintaining good space around your vehicle is to allow a ‘margin for error’ for those short lapses in the level of attention needed in modern driving conditions. Remember: it might not be your errors that you need to allow for!
Just as students are advised to break study and revision periods into manageable ‘chunks’ so that optimum focus is maintained for a greater percentage of revision time, the professional driver should take a break of 15 minutes or so after a couple of hours driving time to refresh the mind and optimise driving focus. Extended periods of driving are detrimental and should be avoided wherever possible by sound planning. More frequent ‘refocus’ breaks might be needed. Ultimately no journey is so urgent as to risk a life, and a strong black coffee will only delay the inevitable slightly.
It is also important to understand here that we are all different. A novice sportsman will not have the focus and stamina of a trained Olympic athlete, and a new driver is no different. We need to take account of varying levels of experience, ability and skill in work teams and to recognise our own abilities (or lack thereof).
An average human being needs a certain amount of sleep daily. Some can thrive on 5-6 hours; others need 7-8 hours. As soon as a driver gets less sleep than normal, the risks rise significantly. Long day ahead, long trips? Start by building up some reserve deposits in your sleep bank in readiness. If reserves of stamina are overdrawn, you are starting from a position of weakness and much more vulnerable to mistakes.
It is also true that we are by nature daytime creatures. Our natural instinct is to be awake by day and asleep by night. This is why the rate of collisions significantly increases in hours of darkness when we are fighting our inherent ‘design characteristics’. How do you identify a tired driver around you when you are travelling? Simply because we are alert doesn’t mean everybody will be. We must make allowances for their state of tiredness. Do you have to drive outside of the normal driving day or can you plan differently?
We also have to recognise the differences between ‘owls and larks’. If you are naturally more awake and alert in evenings, – plan to avoid early starts. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses allows you to manage the risks more effectively.
After a heavy meal the body will take time and chemical energy to digest it, further depleting energy reserves. Choosing light easily digested foods will minimise the risks. Just one alcoholic drink might not put you above the legal limit for driving, but will certainly increase existing fatigue issues.
- 18% of road fatalities in the UK involve someone over the legal limit for driving
- A further 17% of fatalities involves alcohol consumption below the legal limit.
- Know your body and understand your weaknesses
- Plan your diary. Manage the risks
- If you feel tired, stop and rest
- No journey is so urgent as to put a life at risk
For more info on how Cardinus can help your drivers, please call Cardinus on 01733 426015 or email [email protected].