The unique geography of the Indian sub-continent means for many organisations, road transport is often inevitable. Driving has become an integral part of India’s economic life; after the agricultural sector, driving-focused industries are the largest employer in the country. This situation has been recognised by Central Government which has introduced many reforms that have benefitted commercial Drivers, such as the construction targets for building a National Highway. This will help ensure better connectivity for fleet operations throughout the country.
India’s geography also means that Indian drivers often have significant experience of driving in diversity. A driver may travel thousands of kilometres to reach their destination, passing through many highly distinct regions where they will encounter wild variations in climate, languages, congestion levels and food etc.
These different experiences, along with the vast distances they cover, raise the very real risk of fatigue. Changes in temperature, heavy diets, and driving at night to avoid congestion can all contribute to driver drowsiness which, when under pressure to reach their targets, can encourage drivers to use risky driving behaviours.
Drowsy driving is a risk for any driver, no matter their level of skill or experience. Sleep is a basic need like food and water; whether you want to or not, if your body needs sleep, the chances of you falling asleep will be much higher, as after a certain time your body will have no control of it. This could just be a microsleep lasting just a few seconds, but during that time you will be unaware of the road and at higher risk of being involved in a crash.
Changes in temperature, heavy diets, and driving at night to avoid congestion can all contribute to driver drowsiness which, when under pressure to reach their targets, can encourage drivers to use risky driving behaviours.
Exhausted drivers who doze off at the wheel are responsible for about 40% of road crashes, according to research by the Central Road Research Institute (CRRI) on the 300km Agra-Lucknow Expressway.
Fatigued drivers also suffer from slower reaction times, meaning they are less able to quickly respond to changes in the road environment and are less likely to notice the things that may pose a risk.
When someone starts feeling tired, their body will start to give off signals such as drooping eyelids, blurry vision, rubbing eyes, repeatedly yawning etc. If a driver starts to feel any of these symptoms, they need to immediately understand that it’s time to take a halt.
A driver who starts to feel tired should not hesitate to park their vehicle in a safe area, and take a short rest. Drinking caffeine may be helpful in some cases as it can temporarily alleviate some of the symptoms of fatigue. However, nothing is a substitute for getting a full 7-8 hours sleep every night – even taking several small naps. Tiredness has many neurobehavioral effects and it impairs our ability to carry out all types of work, physical as well as mental.
To address this problem, we need to develop a safety culture in our training centres so that drivers can recognise the signs of fatigue and never risk driving while tired.