Research carried out by scientists in Australia suggests that the effects of sleep loss can be similar to or worse than drinking alcohol to excess. The study found that sleep disruption or deprivation can seriously affect the body’s ability to think clearly and to move or react normally. The researchers from the University of New South Wales in Sydney suggest that staying awake for 18 hours without sleep can be the same as drinking to the legal limit. Couriers and the delivery companies that employ them should be aware of the increased risk of accidents after sleep deprivation.
Here are the statistics used in the Government’s Think! Don’t Drive Tired campaign:
• Sleep-related accidents are more likely than others to result in serious injury or fatality.
• Research suggests that almost 20% of accidents on major roads are sleep-related.
• About 40% of sleep-related accidents involve commercial vehicles.
• Peak times for accidents are in the early hours of the morning and after lunch.
• Men under 30 are at the highest risk of falling asleep at the wheel.
• Sleep deprivation impairs coordination, impairs judgement and results in longer reaction times.
Advice for delivery companies to pass on to couriers:
• Journeys should include 15-minute breaks every two hours.
• Couriers should remember the risks if they have to get up unusually early.
• Most people are likely to feel sleepy between midnight and 6 AM, so couriers should keep this in mind when taking on long driving jobs.
• If they begin to feel sleepy, drivers should find a safe place to stop – not the hard shoulder of a motorway.
• After finding a safe place to have a break, drivers should drink two cups of coffee or a high-caffeine energy drink and rest for 10 to 15 minutes. This will allow time for the caffeine to take effect.
• A caffeinated drink or a nap is a short-term solution only. It will only enable a courier to continue driving safely for a short time. The only real cure for tiredness is proper sleep.