Driver fatigue is a serious problem that causes thousands of serious injuries and fatalities on UK roads every year. In fact, the Department of Transport estimates that driver fatigue is a factor in 20% of all road accidents and 25% of fatal and serious accidents. Every week, there are around 200 deaths and serious injuries involving those using the roads for work purposes. And, according to the RAC, business drivers with high work-related mileage have over 50% more accidents than non-business drivers.
Clearly, driving long distances is not something to take lightly, but thankfully, there are a number of simple tips you can follow to dramatically increase the safety of your journey. In this guide, we take a look at the best long-distance driving tips, from steps you can take to ready your vehicle, to the simple things you can do to prepare yourself.
Check your tyres
Before any long drive, you should always take a couple of minutes to inspect your tyres. Look out for tears or bulges in the sidewalls of the tyres, which are an indication that the materials have been weakened. Such damage can cause an extremely dangerous blowout and lead you to lose control of the car. If you do notice any damage, the offending tyre should be replaced immediately.
You should also check your tyres have plenty of tread. This is an easy job as all tyres have tread wear indicators (TWI) located between the grooves across the central part of the treaded area. These small raised blocks are 2mm high, while the legal minimum tread depth is 1.6mm. So, if the indicator is the same depth as the tread then the tyre needs to be replaced. You should also check the tyre pressures meet the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Fill the tank
It’s not advisable to start a long drive without filling up the tank. The government recommends that motorway services are not more than 28 miles apart. However, there are still stretches of motorway where the distances between services are much greater. It’s also worth considering that if you leave one motorway just before a services and join another motorway just after, you could be driving for 50-60 miles without being able to refuel.
Another little-known tip is to refuel your vehicle either early in the morning or late at night. That’s because cold fuel is denser, which means you’ll actually get more fuel for your money.
Water, oil and screen wash
Before any long journey, you should always check the oil and water levels as driving without either could be disastrous for your car. If the oil or water levels are low after having been recently refilled, or if the oil is dirty, it could be indicative of a serious problem with your engine that should be checked out.
Grit, dirt and bugs can all impair your vision during longer journeys, especially at night when you have the added problem of headlight glare. For that reason, it’s important to refill your screen wash before hitting the road. Oil, water and screen wash should also all be refilled when the engine is cold. Here’s some more information on how to perform these essential checks.
Prepare for the weather
Figures from the vehicle insurer AXA show that car insurance claims increase by 12% between November and February. So, when it comes to winter driving, make sure you’re prepared. You should:
– Plan your journey and be aware of the latest weather reports
– Check your levels of antifreeze
– Carry de-icer and an ice scraper
– Check your tyre tread and switch to winter tyres in ice or snow
– Clean your lights and make sure they’re working properly
– Top up your windscreen washer fluid
– Make sure your battery is fully charged
– Travel with warm clothes and a shovel
Clean mirrors and windows
As well as filling up your screen wash, you should also clean your driver- and passenger-side windows and give your wing mirrors a wipe to make sure you have as much visibility as possible.
As well as making sure your vehicle is in tip-top condition, there are also a few steps you should take to prepare yourself.
Avoid driving when tired
Driving while tired can be just as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol. The best way to avoid driver fatigue is to plan your drive accordingly and get plenty of sleep. According to the road safety charity Brake, the body feels most tired between 2am-6am and 2pm-4pm, when we experience a natural dip leading to drowsiness and reduced levels of concentration.
Take regular breaks
It’s recommended that you should take a 15-minute break for every two hours of driving. Rather than sitting in the vehicle, take a short walk, get some fresh air and stretch your legs. As well as helping to revive you, it will also make you feel more comfortable when you start driving again.
Dehydration is an immediate cause of fatigue so make sure you drink plenty of water. You don’t want to have to stop every few miles for a toilet break, so drinking little and often is key.
Eat healthy snacks
Resisting the urge to feast on fast food is probably easier said than done, but fast food will only provide an initial energy dump before leaving you feeling fatigued. Instead, keep snacking throughout the journey, with fruit, cereal bars and a bag of nuts all providing the slow-release energy you need.
Believe it or not, chewing gum has been scientifically proven to enhance alertness and attention while driving. So, keeping a packet of chewing gum in the vehicle and chewing it regularly throughout the journey will help you to focus on the road.
Maintain a good posture
Adjusting your seat so you’re comfortable and sitting up straight with both hands on the wheel can reduce neck pain, back pain, cramp and even trapped nerves. To find the correct posture, recline the backrest of the seat slightly and ensure your shoulders maintain contact with the seat when turning.
At Transmode, we take the safety and comfort of all our drivers very seriously and follow suggested best practice on all long distance trips. If you would like the opportunity to work with Transmode, please download our subcontractor pack. To discuss subcontracting opportunities, please get in touch with our team.