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“Tiredness can kill, take a break” – warning to drivers of driverless truck fleets

Oct 6, 2017

These signs are a familiar sight on our motorways.  The focus and concentration required by drivers who sit behind the wheel for long periods of time can cause fatigue. In fact, across Europe, 20% of serious accidents are caused by drivers falling asleep at the wheel as a result of monotonous driving conditions.

Now these signs take on a new significance to drivers responsible for the fleets of driverless trucks due to be tested on UK roads from 2018. The Transport Research Laboratory, who have been researching how driverless convoys of lorries might work on Britain’s roads, have concluded that the risk of crashing could increase. Drivers may become so bored because of their long periods of inactivity, there’s more chance of them losing concentration and even falling asleep.

As soon as drivers feel the need to open the window, turn up the radio, or find another way of combating tiredness, it is time to stop and take a break. But simply stretching legs and getting some fresh air isn’t enough to overcome the feeling of tiredness. The Highway Code recommends the most effective cure is to drink a couple of cups of coffee and then lie down in the back of the cab to sleep for 15 minutes (it takes 20 minutes for caffeine to kick in). This should be followed by a brisk walk to freshen up before setting off again.

Coincidentally, a different set of tests for different technology are also underway in the UK that may help to overcome the problem of drivers falling asleep at the wheel in the future. A new headrest has been developed that vibrates to wake up the driver when it detects signs of sleepiness.

Before this becomes available though, the advice is clear and drivers should be urged to follow it to ensure they stay safe on the roads.

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