Safe driving 101: Avoiding driver fatigue

22 Dec 15

Whether you're doing the school run or are heading out on the daily commute to work, driving a car is never something that should be taken for granted. Sure, it can be a necessary part of your life, but before you hit the road you need to do everything possible to make sure the ride is safe - for you and your passengers, as well as other road users. 

Before you hit the road 

There are several key steps you can take to ensure your driving experience is a safe one, and the first is making sure you are using a reliable vehicle. If you're buying used, you can minimise the risk of encountering a nasty surprise down the road by checking out a CarHistory report before you buy a used car. 

Appearances can sometimes be deceiving, but a comprehensive CarHistory report can give you the juicy details on a car's history, including whether a car has been previously written off. As part of the report you'll also find a car's safety rating, as decided by the Australian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP). 

With this knowledge in hand, you can avoid becoming one of the almost 5 per cent of used car buyers who will fall victim to fraud or deceit and lose $4,419 on average because of it1

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Watching out for fatigue 

Once you've found your ideal car, there comes the sizeable challenge of consistently practising good driving behaviour - and we're not just talking about perfecting your parallel parking skills.

In fact, one of the easiest ways to keep your driving up to scratch is simply to avoid getting behind the wheel when you're tired. You may not have realised it, but fatigue can be lethal on the road - just a moment of drowsiness could mean that you don't spot a hazard in time to respond safely. 

According to Transport for NSW, crashes involving a fatigued driver are twice as likely to result in fatality2 - a sobering statistic for anyone finding themselves yawning before they've even got into their car. 

For anyone thinking of pulling an 'all-nighter' for work or study and then driving, getting behind the wheel after 17 hours without sleep has the same effect of driving with a 0.05 blood alcohol level2

Keeping alert 

If we don't pay attention to our body's warning signs for fatigue, we can put ourselves at risk of experiencing a 'micro sleep'. This involves your body actually slipping into the first stage of sleep, where you'll lose consciousness for a few seconds without realising3 - understandably not something you want to happen when you're driving.

When going on a long journey, there are several ways to keep yourself feeling alert and focussed on the road. Firstly, it's always a good idea to take someone with you if possible. This means you can take turns to drive, giving you a break every now and again. You'll also have someone to talk to, preventing your mind from drifting off on long, unchanging roads such as a highway. 

They can also keep an eye on you and remind you to take a break when needed. Even if you are driving alone, it's vital to stop if you are feeling drowsy or find yourself unable to stay concentrated. The National Roads and Motorists Association also suggests turning on the air-con to keep the air circulating throughout the car to combat the drowsiness often brought on by a stuffy environment4

1Equifax, Worst of the Worst used cars revealed. Accessed October, 2015. 

2Transport for NSW, Fatigue. Accessed October, 2015.

3RMS, The dangers of having a microsleep. Accessed October, 2015

4NRMA, Driver fatigue information sheet. Accessed October, 2015.