Sunday 17 February 2019

RSA: Why it simply has to be 'Stop, Sip, Sleep' to beat off tiredness at the wheel

Tired driver
Tired driver

RSA Expert

One of the RSA's most successful campaigns in recent years has been the Driver Fatigue campaign.

You might remember it as the ad that features a driver fighting sleep at the wheel, while all around him are visual cues telling him to pull over and take a break.

The central message is for drivers to stop and park in a safe place if feeling tired, to get a cup of coffee and then take a 15-minute nap.

It is encapsulated in our campaign tag line:

Stop.

Sip.

Sleep.

It's all sound advice based on discussions with the world leading Sleep Research Centre at Loughborough University in the United Kingdom.

While the majority of motorists have bought into this advice there are some who think we have got it wrong.

Or should I say that they believe it is the wrong way around.

Since the campaign first aired on TV and radio we have received emails from people saying the advice we are giving is wrong.

They maintain that you should sleep first and then have a coffee.

They argue that 'everyone knows' if you have a coffee first it's going to keep you awake and you won't be able to sleep.

The same view is also coming through among a minority of respondents in recent research we conducted on the whole issue of fatigue.

In an effort to address any misconceptions preventing people from adopting our advice we approached an expert closer to home for some definitive help on the issue.

We spoke to Professor Walter McNicholas of the Sleep Disorders Unit in St Vincent's Hospital, Dublin.

You might have heard him voicing the RSA's most recent radio campaign.

In the advert he reaffirms the tactics that drivers should take when they are tired.

If you feel tired when you are driving you should pull in somewhere safe.

Then drink a coffee or a caffeinated energy drink before taking a 15-minute nap.

This is important to know: The short nap will allow time for the caffeine to take effect - roughly 15 to 20 minutes - before you continue with your journey.

This should give you another hour or so worth of driving. You see when you wake from your nap, you get the double benefit of the sleep and the caffeine as it starts to kick in.

That's why the advice is to Sip before you Sleep.

Don't sleep longer than 15 or 20 minutes as you might wake up feeling groggy.

Another thing that's raised with us is the fact that late at night, when you are most likely to feel sleepy behind the wheel, there are very few places open selling coffee.

So how can people heed our advice? Simple.

The nap is the most important tactic. Doing this on its own will help significantly. The coffee is a bonus.

And if there is nowhere nearby selling coffee, do what I do and put a caffeinated energy drink in the boot of the car.

If you are planning a long journey taking a flask of coffee is another option. Of course, this tactic is a short-term solution and in cases of extreme tiredness, brought on by sleep deprivation, the only cure for such a lack of sleep is sleep.

One last point.

Don't be tempted to keep driving when you are tired just because you are close to your destination.

Many tiredness-related collisions occur within a few minutes of the driver's destination because he or she has relaxed and the body takes this as a signal that it's alright to fall asleep.

Tactics such as opening the window or turning up the volume on the radio do not work.

And no amount of willpower will keep you awake either.

If you fight sleep at the wheel you'll end up drunk with tiredness.

You'll start drifting in and out of consciousness and experience what are called 'micro-sleeps', which can last for up to 10 seconds and can take place with your eyes wide open - until you eventually fall asleep at the wheel.

So please if you are feeling tired behind the wheel, heed the advice of the experts:

Stop.

Sip.

Sleep.

Irish Independent

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