Fatigue Lessons Note

You have a body clock called a ‘circadian rhythm’ that allows you to live a normal day-to-day life by planning when you should be awake and asleep. Your body clock makes you tired when you should be asleep and can be very dangerous when driving.

Fatigue is the feeling of being tired, sleepy or exhausted and is a major cause of crashes

Fatigue affects everyone regardless of driving experience, but experienced drivers are often better able to avoid fatigue by knowing when to take a break.

Fatigue can slow your reflexes, affect your attention, affect your judgement, and cause you to fall asleep at the wheel.

The only way to stop fatigue is by getting enough sleep, and the only way to treat driver fatigue once you have started driving is to stop and rest.

Take regular breaks to avoid fatigue

Not sleeping for 17 hours has the same effect on driving as a BAC of 0.05, and not sleeping for 24 hours has the same effect as a BAC of 0.10.

Some early signs of fatigue:

  • Missing road signs
  • Restlessness
  • Slow reactions
  • Tired, sore or heavy eyes
  • Daydreaming
  • Struggling to stay in the lane
  • Yawning
  • Blurred vision
  • Drowsiness

Make sure to take breaks every two hours. If you feel tired or notice any of these early signs of fatigue - STOP AND REST!

Typical situations when fatigue can happen:

  • When you drive soon after waking up. You have a high risk of fatigue during the first 30 minutes after waking up.
  • If you're driving when you would normally be sleeping(e.g. 10 pm - 6 am). Your blood pressure and temperature fall during these hours, which impairs your ability to perfrom tasks (this is part of your natural sleep pattern, and there is nothing you can do about it). Crash risk is much higher during these hours.
  • When you have been awake for longer than usual. The risk increases greatly after being awake for 17 hours.
  • When you haven't had enough sleeps. You can only you acquire a 'sleep debt' that can only be repaid by sleeping.
  • When you've been driving non-stop for a long time. The longer you drive, the higher the risk of fatigue. Stop for 15 minutes every 2 hours.


Driving while tired can cause microsleeps. Microsleep is a short, unintended loss of consciousness characterised by briefly closing the eyes, head snap

At 100 km/h, a 1-second microsleep means that the car will travel about 28m without the driver having any control.

To avoid fatigue:

  • Plan ahead by arranging stops and rest overnight.
  • Switch drivers whenever possible
  • Get enough sleep before driving
  • Don’t drink too much coffee or sweet soft drinks
  • Drink lots of water as dehydration can cause fatigue
  • Use rest areas, tourist spots and Driver Reviver spots
  • Don’t start a long drive at the end of the day
  • Make sure to get some fresh air (in the car and during breaks)
  • Eat properly and just enough. Big meals make you sleepy

Driver Reviver sites

Driver Reviver sites are places where you can take a break during peak holiday travel periods (e.g. Christmas and Easter). They provide free coffee, tea, snacks and road advice.

Roadside rest areas

Rest areas are places where you can stop and revive before continuing your journey. They are open 24/7.

You can also take breaks at petrol stations, parks etc.

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