JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – With the start of Covid Level 1 lockdown restrictions many more people have returned to the roads and life before ”the virus” after six months of working from home. A return to (well, almost) normal life could create more fatigue on the roads as drivers re-adapt.
Eugene Herbert, MD of MasterDrive and by now almost road-safety correspondent for The Corner, tells us today that drivers might be more susceptible to ”microsleep” at the wheel. Yes, ”microsleep…!”
WHAT IS Microsleep??
Herbert explains: “It’s a state of sleep when parts of your brain override consciousness and you fall asleep for anything from a fraction of a second to 30 seconds. If you’re tired, bored – even doing a monotonous job – you’re susceptible to microsleep.
“It becomes particularly dangerous if driving – the road might be monotonous… maybe you slept an hour less… perhaps you’re simply vulnerable to microsleep. Whatever, all drivers can experience microsleep, but there are things you can do to prevent things ending in tragedy.”
1 Identify risk factors: If you have a sleeping disorder or find difficulty sleeping you are at high risk of microsleeping.
2 Sleep well: Whether you have a sleep disorder or not, practice behaviours that help to avoid exhaustion. Ensure you get at least seven hours of sleep and go to bed and wake up in the morning at the same time every day. Employ healthy habits such as eating nutritiously, avoiding coffee before bed, and not drinking alcohol the night before a long drive. Fatigue can be inevitable on a long trip so a co-driver is important.
3 Watch for the signs: There are indications that you’re at high risk of microsleep: blinking slowly, yawning, daydreaming, body jerks as consciousness cuts in. You are also more likely to make driving errors you would not ordinarily make.
4 Take action: If you identify you may be experiencing microsleep or are at high risk take measures to energise yourself. This depends on what you find best: a cup of coffee, a break from driving, parking somewhere safe for a nap.
If you ever suspect you might have had a microsleep or are at risk of one take steps to reduce your risk. Herbert says: “Returning to the road during Level 1 will be challenging whether you need to become accustomed to the traffic or get used to driving again.
”Whatever, MAKE SURE you don’t add another challenge.”