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Sleepiness during driving
Sleepiness while driving is sometimes compared with drunkenness, as both can have very dangerous consequences. Photo: Newspress

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Invisible enemy preying on drivers

Pay attention to signs of micro sleep
10. September 2017 ob 12:43
Ljubljana - MMC RTV SLO

The main Slovenian automobile organisation AMZS has carried out a survey to determine how many drivers suffer from chronical sleepiness during driving. What’s most worrisome is the fact that drivers generally do not pay much attention to sleepiness and usually continue their journey.

Drivers should not overlook one of their invisible enemies that last for a short time and is rarely noticed but may have fatal consequences.

Fatal millisecond
This invisible enemy is called micro sleep and refers to a temporary loss of concentration due to involuntary sleep. It can last as little as one millisecond, which is why drivers rarely even notice it. However, it prevents drivers from being aware of the world around them. In practice, a second or a fraction of a second still covers a fair amount of distance and a lot can happen in this time. In some cases, micro sleep can even last five or ten seconds, most frequently during monotonous drives through long straight section of roads, typically highways with fairly high speeds of driving.

Micro sleep never occurs without prior warning – possible warning signs include constant yawning, poor concentration, tired or aching eyes, restlessness, sleepiness, slow responses, boredom, irritability, rarer but more radical turns of the wheel, overlooked traffic signs and difficulty in staying on the lane. These signs that foretell micro sleep should be taken very seriously. The driver should stop safely as soon as possible and take a walk. It is recommended to have a cup of coffee or some other caffeinate drink, freshen up and perhaps even have a short nap.

Leading cause in 20 per cent of accidents
Brake, a British road safety charity, has performed a survey among 1,000 drivers. 45 per cent of male and 22 per cent of female drivers admitted to having experienced micro sleep at least once or even more than once while driving and becoming aware of it. It is estimated that micro sleep is the lelding cause in at least 20 per cent of accidents on monotonous main roads.

Matija Janežič; translated by K. Z.