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Van driver fatigue – how to prevent it

Tired DrivingAccording to Government reports, it’s estimated that 20% of all accidents on major roads are as a direct result of driver tiredness. When you add in the fact that 40% of those accidents involve commercial drivers, it’s something that commercial van drivers need to take notice off. 

The most common times for sleep-related accidents is early morning and after lunch. Interestingly, males under the age of 30 tend to be most affected, possibly because they overestimate how capable and ‘with it’ they are. When it comes to the after-lunch slump however, it’s the older men that are more affected! 

If you want to help prevent driver fatigue, here’s some tips to remember. 

Plan Your Driving Day

Pre-planning your day can help ensure you’re taking the risks into account and scheduling in regular breaks. If you’re planning to get up unusually early for a long trip, give yourself time to properly wake up. 

When it comes to long driving stints, avoid long trips between midnight and 6am, as this is the time you’re likely to feel most tired anyway. We also have a natural lull in energy between 2-4pm – and this will affect you more, the older you are – so it’s worth taking this into account, when planning out your driving day. 

Adhere to the standard driving break

Although HGV and coach drivers have a legal requirement to stop for 45 minutes every 4.5 hours, under EU legislation, van drivers aren’t. However, UK domestic rules stipulate van drivers need to have a 30-minute break after 5.5 hours of driving.  Ideally though, you’ll want to adhere to recommendations by road safety charity ‘Break’ – who recommend a 15-minute break every two hour.  

Remember, if you’re found to be exceeding the daily driving limits, you can be fined £300. 

What to do if you feel tired

If you find yourself feeling tired, find a safe place to stop. Get off the main road and do not use the hard shoulder as a napping area – you’re putting yourself at greater risk here. Pull into the nearest service station and get a couple of cups of coffee or a high-caffeinated drink and give yourself a 15 to 20-minute break. Follow this up with a brief, brisk walk. Not only does this give you time to wake up, it also gives the caffeine time to get into your system.  

Whilst you’re at that service station, it’s also worth remembering that a heavy meal will only make you sleepier – so opt for light meals instead! 

There are no shortcuts

When it comes to prevent driver fatigue, it’s important to remember – there are no shortcuts. Winding down your window, turn the radio up, caffeinated drinks and short naps are all only short-term solutions. The only real cure for feeling tired is to have a decent sleep each night and ensure you’re not driving for more than the recommended allowance in any 24-hour period.  

If you find yourself sat at a service station, with a mug of coffee in hand, trying to stay awake, think about how tired you really are and make a commitment to plan your driving day better in future. A much better solution to your current problem, would be to park up in that service station, wind back your seat and get a decent few hours of shut-eye – before you even think about getting back on the road. 

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