Most people understand that it is dangerous to drive while tired.

 

But what many people don’t realise is that driver fatigue can kill at any time of the day – not just in the middle of the night.

 

The most dangerous hours of the day to be on the road are between 3pm and 5pm where a more subtle form of fatigue is at work.

 

The circadian rhythm of the human body generally creates a mid-afternoon slump.

 

During this period you’re less likely to be fully alert and your general concentration levels are not as sharp.

 

This overall drop in driver performance dramatically increases the risk of being involved in a crash.

 

A comparison of almost 20 years of data from the Australian Transport Safety Board showed that people are almost three times as likely to die at 3 o’clock in the afternoon as they are at 4 o’clock in the morning.

 

Overall, fatalities between 3pm and 5pm are almost double of those that occur between 8am and 10am. And just as telling is that the number of fatal crashes is higher than average until 8pm.

 

The reason behind these figures is not the volume of vehicles on the road because there isn’t a significant variance between morning or afternoon peak hours. What is different is our ability as road users to perform during these times.

 

You need to keep in mind that fatigue is not just lack of sleep, it can also mean going through regular tasks on auto pilot, thinking about the kids, the job, the shopping, the night ahead, all of which takes your concentration from where it needs to be most – on the road.

 

Many of us experience the mid-afternoon slump in concentration and energy but for those hitting the road, that fatigue can have deadly consequences.

 

So be aware of this and take whatever steps you can to help reduce these risks. It could mean that you need to re-schedule your dairy or alter your plans slightly. If you have to be on the road during these times be sure to take extra care.

 

Focus on the basics like looking as far ahead as you can and scanning the road environment   Remember that other road users are also less likely to be fully alert and there is an increased likelihood for human error. This would especially be the case when approaching school zones, intersections and residential streets.

 

Drive Safely – Russell White, Driversafety.com.au