Ford’s Driving Skills for Life: Avoid Drowsy Driving This Festive Season
- Ford’s Driving Skills for Life programme warns that drowsy driving is as dangerous as driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Difficulty focusing, frequent blinking, or heavy eyelids are all signs of drowsy driving
- Ford Motor Company gives South African drivers tips for driving at night ahead of the festive season
For many South Africans the festive season means a lot of time on the road – driving long distances to their favourite summer destinations, and visiting friends and family. Often, a lot of this travelling occurs during the night or in the early hours of the morning. Ford’s Driving Skills for Life programme (DSFL) warns that all of this time spent on the road and travelling at night increases the risk of fatigued and drowsy driving.
Experts from DSFL, a comprehensive driving program created by Ford to promote a safe and efficient driving culture, warn that the effects of drowsy driving are not just falling asleep. Drowsiness leads to impaired reaction and decision time and decreased vigilance and attention – all similar to the effects of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
As a safe driving programme, DSFL advises that one of the most important aspects to safe driving is anticipating the situation on the road. But, this is a hard thing to do if you are drowsy, especially if you are driving at night when visibility is poor.
“Avoid using quick fixes like energy drinks, the radio, and opening a window, to stay awake at the wheel. They don’t work,” says Derek Kirkby, Training Director, Ford DSFL. “Don’t drive if you are tired or on medication that may cause drowsiness, and don’t drive at times when you would be sleeping.”
DSFL experts advise you to look out for the following signs of drowsy driving when driving this festive season:
- Difficulty focusing, frequent blinking, or heavy eyelids
- Trouble remembering the last few kilometres driven, or missing exits or traffic signs
- Trouble keeping your head up
- Drifting from your lane, tailgating, or hitting a shoulder rumble strip
- Feeling restless, in a rush, and irritable
Tips for Driving at Night
To avoid the risk of drowsy driving, DSFL experts encourage good sleeping habits to reduce sleep deprivation and to limit driving between midnight and sunrise. The most obvious way to avoid the risks of driving at night is simply to avoid it altogether, but that is not always possible.
However, not every risk is beyond the driver’s control. If you are going to be driving at night this festive season, the Automobile Association of South Africa (AA) recommends you take the following precautions to ensure you stay safe:
- Make sure your headlights and brake lights are in proper working order. If you are towing, make sure your brake lights and indicators are connected properly and working before setting out.
- Keep your front and rear windscreens clean and make sure your windscreen’s defogger is working properly.
- Avoid keeping your gaze focused at a single distance, as this can cause eye fatigue and lead to drowsiness.
- Do not drive faster than the range of your vision – you might not be able to stop at all times, within the length of the road illuminated by your headlights.
- Keep your headlights on at all times. This will make you more visible to other motorists.
- Don’t blind other motorists. Dip your headlights well before an approaching vehicle is within range. Also, dip your headlights when driving behind another vehicle. If the other driver does not respond, flash the beam back to high for a second and then dip again. Don’t retaliate by keeping you high beam on, two blinded drivers instead of one is merely doubling the danger.
- Maintain a safe following distance from the vehicle ahead of you. Remember, your reaction time may be slower at night, because you are seeing less, but have to respond in the same time you would in daytime.
According to the Road Traffic Management Corporation, about 56 percent of car accidents occur at night. If you are driving at night this festive season, it is important to be prepared for the increased risk. Managing tiredness on a long-term basis, getting enough sleep, avoiding unnecessary driving during the late hours, and staying alert will ensure that safe festive season.