Slack behind the wheel
When tiredness takes over the helm Summer, sun, traffic jam – and the big yawning of the travelers: Almost endless car journeys on holiday can become a deadly risk if the driver feels limp and does not give in to his need for sleep in time. Fatigue is the cause of every third traffic accident. A problem that can be equated with alcohol at the wheel, as the sleep specialist Univ. Prof. Dr. Manfred Walzl popularized for MEDIZIN.
One night worked through quickly, so that nothing is left lying before the holiday. The bags were packed quickly on the evening before departure, then slept swiftly for four or five hours, because at two o’clock in the morning it starts quickly, so that one escapes the traffic jam at the border crossing as much as possible. The sleep deficit can then make up for the holidays extensively.
Whoever “prepared” to drive for hours, risks his life. And not only his, but also that of his passengers and other road users. “The sleep deficit is a great danger,” says Univ. Prof. Dr. Manfred Walzl, Head of Sleep Medicine at the Landesnervenklinik Graz. “Anyone who needs eight hours of sleep and sleeps only four hours reacts the next morning as restricted as if he had 0.5 per mil alcohol in his blood, and thus has an accident risk at least four to six times higher than in a fasted state. A night’s sleep causes the reactivity to sink as much as if one had 1.0 per thousand in the blood. And after two nights without sleep you already have hallucinations, so for example, you see people or objects that do not actually exist. ”
The second danger to life and limb: Driving in periods when the body is set to “slow speed”, the ability to concentrate has reached its lowest point and error rates and accident rates are rising: these are the phases between one and three o’clock in the morning and between thirteen and fifteen In the afternoon. In recent studies of the Graz sleep medicine also the time turned out at 11 o’clock in the morning as so-called chronobiological deep.
“Especially dangerous,” adds Prof. Walzl, “is that interval from the decision to take a break until you reach a parking lot. In this time you are virtually ‘logged off’, unfocused and falls asleep easier. According to recent sleep medical examinations can be explained with this phenomenon, the increasing accident frequency in the immediate vicinity of the residential or resort.
Every second person is tired – Recent study with terrifying results
The recently published study on “Fatigue in Road Traffic” shows the dramatic extent of the problem, especially among professional drivers. The largest investigation in Europe to date has been commissioned by the Upper Austrian Traffic Officer and Deputy Governor Erich Haider in cooperation with Univ. Prof. Dr. Manfred Walzl performed. In the course of a year, the degree of drowsiness was measured in a total of 1,180 truck and bus drivers (1,121 men and 59 women) who volunteered as participants in the province of Upper Austria.
The most important results
- 22.3 percent of professional drivers had to be classified as “unfit for driving”. That is, they were too tired to drive a vehicle.
- 30.9 per cent came out of the investigation as “conditionally fit”; that means they would have had to take a break of at least 20 minutes to be safe enough for the next two or three hours. After that, it would absolutely have taken a long – about eight hours – break.
- Only at just under half, so at 46.8 percent, there were no concerns in terms of driving ability.
- Bus drivers generally had better values than truck drivers.
- Younger (male) drivers were on average tired as older. Incidentally, a phenomenon that has also been observed in the US, but for the time being there is no really plausible explanation.
- The drivers themselves can assess the extent of their fatigue or drowsiness extremely difficult: Only 6.2 percent rated themselves as overtired.
Pupillomat exposes tired drivers – Drowsiness can be measured
How tired motorists actually are can now be measured in a clear and straightforward way. With the so-called pupilomat, a portable device that uses infrared technology to measure the ever-changing diameter of the pupil in the eye. The more “tired” a driver, the more violent are the reactions between narrowing and dilation of the pupils. From the data obtained, the computer creates a fatigue profile on the spot, which, according to Prof.
Walzl, “represents absolutely precise values”. The driver has to do nothing but eleven minutes – as long as the recording of the pupil’s play – to sit still and fix the low-visibility infrared lighting.
The pupillomat has already been tested in several studies, not only the recent study in Upper Austria has revealed alarming results. Prof. Walzl on the most questionable “record holder”: “This is a truck driver who had been on the road for more than 50 hours with just a five-hour break. The pupillographic measurement could not be made with him. After a minute, the chauffeur had disappeared into the realm of dreams. In our most recent study, 73 out of a total of 1,180 participants fell asleep during the measurement, or 6.2 percent. ”
The Upper Austrian provincial governor Erich Haider wants the Pupillomat similar to the now recognized Alkomat for the determination of alcohol in the future anchored as a control instrument in the local road traffic regulations. This is to avoid the fatal consequences of tiredness at the wheel.
Prof. Walzl: “It is also extremely important to educate the population about the dangers of tiredness at the wheel and at the workplace. I’m working on concepts to solve the problem.”
The best tips from Univ. Prof. Dr. Manfred Walzl
1. Sit down just rested behind the wheel
There is no “standard” for sleeping needs. But still applies: Between seven and nine hours you should rest. Therefore: Before every major trip by car at least three nights with enough sleep must be.
2. Pay attention to comfort in the car
The “workplace” of the car driver must be right. The ideal conditions are: correct sitting position, loose clothing, mild warmth in winter, moderate cooling in summer.
3. Eat right
Too much, too heavy, too fat – all this promotes fatigue. On the other hand, fiber-rich, easily digestible food – distributed over several small meals – is cheap and also compels you to take a break. Eating while driving distracts.
4. Also drink regularly while driving
The water bottle must be a constant travel companion. Sweat and breathing are constantly losing fluid. Air conditioners aggravate the problem. Since a long drive can come together a lot. Fluid loss leads to blood thickening, the brain is not supplied with enough oxygen – fatigue is the result. Just two percent less fluid in the circulation leads to 20 percent less concentration!
5. Do not smoke in the car
Cigarette smoke in the car reduces the oxygen concentration, which leads to deficiency symptoms in the form of fatigue.
6. Interpret your signs of fatigue
Everyone knows each other best. Also regarding the signs of tiredness. Heavy eyelids, blinking, constant wiping over the face, etc. – there’s only one thing to do: Break as fast as you can.
7. Take regular breaks, keep moving
Even if you are not tired, regular breaks are a must. Do little gymnastic exercises to get your blood circulation back on track. More oxygen
in the body prevents premature fatigue.
8. Maintain the “power nap”
In the 24-hour cycle, people have two absolute lows: between one and three o’clock in the morning and between 13 and 15 o’clock in the afternoon. Those who are traveling at these times must allow themselves 20 minutes of sleep. Extensive research has shown that after this short sleep break, the so-called “power nap”, a significant increase in concentration, attention and performance comes.
9. Do not rely on coffee and energy drinks
There is only one remedy for tiredness: sleep! First of all, coffee and energy drinks have a delayed effect and only last for a short time. They can not be a substitute for sleep.
10. Be critical to yourself
No, you are not always fully in control. With willpower alone, you are guaranteed to not drive safer. You can control food and drink for longer periods of time. The need for sleep, however, not. Sooner or later the body automatically gets what it needs. So: self-criticism, the admission of fatigue, is the best protection against fatal consequences.
Source: Medizin Populaer