Vital breaks that

can save lives

LOCKING up the house and settling down behind the wheel to drive to a much anticipated holiday destination is one of the best parts of going away.

The journey may take several or more hours so it is wise to ask yourself if you really are up to the journey in one stint.

Being tired when you're driving raises the risk of a collision, because you're less aware of what's happening around you.

Your ability to react is impaired if a risky situation develops. That's why fatigue can be a factor in up to 20 per cent of all road collisions, and up to 25 per cent of fatal and serious crashes.

Road safety officer of GEM Motoring Assist, Neil Worth, said: "We want you to ensure your holiday starts the moment you close the front door and set off, but safety has to come first. If you're on a long road journey, make sure you're properly rested before you set out, and build in regular breaks on long journeys to help stay fresh, observant and aware.

"This is particularly important if you've changed your routine and are driving early or late - or even through the night - to avoid the queues.

"A fatigue-related crash is around 50 per cent more likely to result in death or serious injury, simply because a driver who has fallen asleep at the wheel will be unable to reduce speed or change direction to avoid a collision. The consequences can be devastating."

There are many recognisable warning signs before you actually nod off at the wheel. These include difficulty focusing on the driving task, fidgeting and frequent yawning and rubbing.

As fatigue worsens, it will be increasingly difficult to focus on driving. Accompanying this could be drifting to the left or right and an inability to maintain a constant speed.

It is always advisable to get a good night's sleep before you drive a long journey.

Build in time to reach your destination (or your night-stop) without rushing. Remove time pressures wherever possible.

On long journeys, take a break of at least 15 minutes after every two hours or 100 miles. Get out of the car, do some exercise, stretch or walk. If necessary, have a caffeine drink or two to boost your alertness.

If you are driving all day, schedule a proper hour-long break in the middle of the day, as this serves to split the day's driving into two shorter and more manageable halves.

Avoid driving alone for long distances if possible. Share the driving, and support each other by watching for any signs of fatigue.

Don't press on into the night to avoid driving at times when you would usually be asleep.

I am sure there are many drivers out there who have nodded off at the wheel and got away with it but there are many who have not.

Taking a break really can save lives.

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