Foot­loose RON MOON

4 x 4 Australia - - Contents -

AS I write this 40 peo­ple have been killed on our high­ways and by­ways over the Christ­mas-new Year break, with an un­known num­ber se­ri­ously in­jured. If the past few years are any­thing to go by, many of those ac­ci­dents would be caused by fa­tigue.

We should all be aware of how big a dan­ger fa­tigue is on our roads, the tell­tale signs of the on­set of fa­tigue, and what to do to cir­cum­vent any ac­ci­dent caused by fa­tigue. Fa­tigue is one of the ‘big three’ killers on our roads and is right up there with speed and al­co­hol as a ma­jor cause of road ac­ci­dents. Many peo­ple aren’t used to long-dis­tance driv­ing, and many jump into the 4WD af­ter a long day at work and head off with the fam­ily to some re­mote beach, river, or desert oa­sis for a long week­end. This can be a recipe for a dis­as­ter.

Vic­to­rian fig­ures show that fa­tigue is a ma­jor cause of road crashes, re­sult­ing in around 50 deaths and ap­prox­i­mately 300 se­ri­ous in­juries ev­ery year. In Western Aus­tralia, where stun­ningly bor­ing and long roads be­tween towns is more the norm than the ex­cep­tion, the WA Road Safety Com­mis­sion reck­ons fa­tigue could be re­spon­si­ble for up to 30 per cent of the fa­tal­i­ties on the state’s roads each year.

Else­where around Aus­tralia the fig­ures are much the same, while the same na­tional data on road ac­ci­dents in­di­cates there is a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in fa­tigue-re­lated crashes in hol­i­day pe­ri­ods, such as over the Christ­mas and Easter breaks.

Fa­tigue can de­crease your alert­ness, slow down re­ac­tion times, in­hibit de­ci­sion mak­ing, de­crease tol­er­ances to other road users, make you more prone to poor lane track­ing, and make you un­able to main­tain a set speed.

Early dan­ger signs of fa­tigue in­clude miss­ing a gear, road sign or exit, wan­der­ing thoughts, slow­ing un­in­ten­tion­ally, and/or brak­ing too late. If you’re driv­ing and you’re yawn­ing, blink­ing more than usual, hav­ing trou­ble keep­ing your head up, no­tice your eyes clos­ing for a mo­ment or go­ing out of fo­cus, or that you have for­got­ten driv­ing the last few kilo­me­tres, then it’s time to stop and get off the road.

Be­ing drowsy can quickly lead to a mi­cro sleep which can last up to five sec­onds, and at 100km/h your ve­hi­cle is trav­el­ling at nearly 28 me­tres per sec­ond. Fa­tigue-re­lated crashes are twice as likely to be fa­tal, as sleep­ing driv­ers don’t brake.

Over the years I’ve got to know the tell­tale signs when it comes to feel­ing tired. Just last week when com­ing back from the High Coun­try I was yawn­ing and blink­ing, so I stopped, walked around the ve­hi­cle a few times, took a few deep breaths of mountain air and jumped back in and drove on.

An hour later I was do­ing the same thing, so I stopped again and had a wan­der around. How­ever, only sleep cures fa­tigue, so I found a shady tree just down the road, rang Viv to let her know I’d be late and shut my eyes for a quick doze. Two hours later I woke, and the rest of the jour­ney passed with­out a blink or a yawn.

With Easter just around the cor­ner, make sure you and your fam­ily don’t end up as sta­tis­tics of the road toll. Know your lim­i­ta­tions, have a good night’s sleep be­fore set­ting out, plan to swap driv­ers reg­u­larly, and take plenty of rests. Also, run your ve­hi­cle’s air sys­tem on fresh (not re­cir­cu­late) to en­sure plenty of clean, out­side air is en­ter­ing the ve­hi­cle.

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