This month marks a year since the 2016 Croydon tram disaster – a tragedy that killed seven people and left 51 injured. This incident could have been so easily prevented as the tram driver derailed the vehicle, due to falling asleep while driving.
Ever since this major transport catastrophe, there has been growing concern over public transport drivers and their inability to take a break, due to their hectic work schedules and dangerous night shift patterns. More needs to be done to prevent drowsy drivers operating public transport, because they are responsible for public safety and the quota just is not being properly met.
The Rail Safety and Standards Board have released help and advice surrounding staff fatigue, stating: “Simply specifying a minimum rest period between shifts will not guarantee that a shift worker is fully recovered. The reason is that the extent of a person’s recovery will depend upon many factors. These include, for example, how much sleep a person has been able to obtain; the quality of that sleep; [and] the extent to which the rest period coincides with the normal (circadian) cycle of the biological body clock.”
There are many dangers that arise as a result of falling asleep at the wheel, as reactions are slower when drivers feel sleep-deprived. In fact, there are many signs that drivers should watch out for, including obvious yawning, heavy eyes, general fatigue and a foggy memory of the last 10 minutes of your journey.
Back in 2016, Dr David Yang, Executive Director for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, said “You cannot miss sleep and still expect to be able to safely function behind the wheel.”
“Our new research shows that a driver who has slept for less than five hours has a crash risk comparable to someone driving drunk.”
What to do if you feel drowsy when driving:
– Trust your body and its warnings that you are drowsy and fatigued
– Plan your journey at the time of day where you are most alert. If you are not a morning person, don’t choose to drive a long journey in the early hours, travel at midday instead
– Take a break. Service stations are scattered around UK motorways for a reason, so use them to buy a coffee, or simply to get some fresh air to keep you awake for the remainder of your journey
– Wind down the windows. Letting fresh air into your car will wake you up and improve your reactions and perceptions on the road