“Shirts have been ironed, lunches packed and you’re ready for the first day back at work. Now it’s time to get a good night’s sleep before the return to work drive in the morning.”
Last year’s fatalities were one of the worst in recent years and this year we can do more to prevent and minimise the frequency and severity of road crashes, especially as every crash is preventable and every crash involves a human.
To help reduce fatalities and serious injuries on the road this year, here are some tips on making the return to work commute as safe as possible.
The first thing you can do is to make sure that you are getting enough sleep in order to minimise drowsiness, tiredness and fatigue. Most people need approximately eight hours of sleep a night to function effectively. Australian research has highlighted the effects of fatigue by showing that a person that has been awake for 17-19 hours has performance capabilities similar to being impaired by alcohol to a blood alcohol content equivalent 0.05%, the legal limit in Australia for most drivers (Dawson & Reid, 1997; Williamson, Feyer, Friswell, & Finlay-Brown, 2000).
Other research undertaken in the Australian context involving Dr Darren Wishart, Principal Scientist, Safe Systems Engineering at ARRB, and colleagues indicated that although many organisations appear to have fatigue management plans it is apparent that there are differences between espoused fatigue management plans and what actually happens in regard to fatigue and driving for work.
It’s also handy to note that we are most tired on the first few days after holidays. Keep in mind that people are often mentally more tired when driving home for those first few days after having time off. Your mind is still in holiday mode as it slowly becomes a distant memory.
Our second tip is to drive with courtesy and consideration of others; be mindful about changing lanes often, rushing, squeezing in, not allowing others to merge when needed - these things can only save you a bit of time, if any at all. "Doing these manoeuvres won’t save you much time, but doing so can cause you unnecessary anxiety and anger, increasing the risk of a crash. Allow plenty of time to get to your destination and just relax and enjoy the drive." says Jerome Carslake, Manager of the National Road Safety Partnership Program (NRSPP).
Be wary of any distractions such as the mobile phone. Place it in the boot or turn it on silent and focus on the journey ahead. The mind can easily wander straight after holidays, so be aware of how this could impact the drive.
If we all follow these tips and are courteous to our fellow road users, we can ensure a safe arrival at work and back home to our loved ones again.
For more information, you can check out the NRSPP website’s resources here.
Wishart, D. & Rowland, B (2010). Origin organisational work related road safety situational analysis report. Unpublished Manuscript.
Wishart, D. (2015). The challenge of developing a fleet driving risk assessment tool: What can be learned from the process? Doctoral Thesis QUT.
Dawson, D. & Reid K. (1997) Equating the performance impairment associated with sustained wakefulness and alcohol intoxication. Centre for Sleep Research, University of South Australia
Williamson, A., Feyer, A., Friswell, R. & Finlay-Brown, S. (2000). Development of measures of fatigue: using and alcohol comparison to validate the effects of fatigue on performance Consultant Report CR189, Australian Transport Safety Bureau, Canberra.
(Davey et.al, 2008; Wishart & Rowland, 2010).