Fatigue-the Hidden Killer (I)

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with Jonas Agwu

(Asst Corps Marshal)

Zonal Commanding Officer

Zone RS7 Abua

phone 08077690700

FRSC TOLL FREE NO 122

Email:j.agwu@frsc.gov.ng

As we enter the second month in this years ember months,i would like to share a very interesting material  I stumbled on, on the above subject put together by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau. Although I had done something similar on this page, I am, however, compelled to write this piece again because of my expereices and appeals by some readers and friends to use the same material which they believe is a life saver especially because most drivers do not realise the risk involved in driving fatigues.While some are lucky to survive near misses,others who ignore this high driving risk factor ended up in the morgue or bed ridden.

Although data on road crash to justify the danger of fatigue in Nigeria is scarce, globally fatigue remains a hidden killer. Many have died in the name of tyre burst, speed, dangerous overtaking when in actual fact the real factor may have been fatigued that was ignored as nothing serious. What really is fatigue? According to the Australian material a   combination of any of the following warning signs means the driver is becoming fatigued:yawning,eyes feeling sore or heavy, vision starting to blur, daydreaming- thinking of everything else but not your driving, not concerntrating,becoming impatient, reactions seem slow, speed creeps up and down, making poor gear changes, wandering over the centre line or onto the road edge, feeling stiff or cramped, you start’ seeing things’, you feel hungry or thirsty, you have difficulties keeping your head up or eyes open, you hear a droning or humming in your ears, you don’t notice a vehicle until it overtakes you.

When you notice these signs like I did on my way from Dutse, please don’t ignore it .Don’t plead the blood either.Dont even border binding the’ innocent devil’.Hey,not even time to blast in unknown tongues. It is not the devil. Not your in-law. Not your angry landlord. Not even your jealous colleague in the office. But you. Yes you. Once fatigue sets in, there is little you can do about it except stop as soon as possible and take a break. Take a break, sooner rather than later. Driver Fatigue can be just as deadly as drink driving or excessive speeding. The problem of fatigue is that it slowly develops and drivers often don’t realise they are too tired to drive safely.Ironically; there is always a warning sign. Mine began with yawning.

 Fatigue, according to research is caused by lack of sleep or broken sleep. Alcohol and some medications can also cause sleepiness. Although the need for sleep varies among individuals, sleeping eight hours in a 24-hour period is common. The effect of sleep loss builds up. Regularly losing 1 to 2 hours sleep a night can create a “sleep debt” and lead to chronic sleepiness over time. Just being in bed doesn’t mean a person has had enough sleep. Disrupted sleep has the same effect as lack of sleep.Illness, noise; activity can interrupt and reduce the amount and quality of sleep.

Like every other driving habits or problems, fatigue has its fair share of myths. For those freaky about night trips or night journeys, the notion is that it is safer to make the trip at night in order to avoid day- time traffic build up. The fact, however is that your body has a normal 24hour rhythm pattern built into it. If you are driving when you would normally be sleeping you will be fighting yourself to stay awake. The chances of falling asleep at the wheel after your normal bedtime, especially in the early hours of the morning, are very high. There is also the notion that it is a good idea to start the trip after work. This personally has affected me since my posting to Kaduna.Ofcourse,I don’t joke with my family. I love my two sons like heaven and would do everything to spend valuable time with them like every loving father or husband. But do you know the risk involved. Travelling after work is certainly not the ideal and this is a fact. After the mental and physician office work demands during the day, you will be too tired even though you will not realise it. The safest thing to do is to get a good night sleep (about 7-8hours of undisturbed sleep) and start your journey the next morning.

There are those who think that loud music will keep you awake. Agreed that loud music, can, however it will help for a while .It might even distract you from from the driving task or even send you to sleep. What about coffee? Gworo? What if combined with cigarette? Caffeine is only a short term solution and will have less effect the more often you use it. It might make you feel more alert but it won’t keep you going for long.Seep, remains the long term solution. This reminds me of a personal experience way back at the greatest University-the University of Lagos . Although it had nothing to do with driving, it however taught me a little lesson about cheating nature. While on a post graduate programme, we went to what was then one of the bukas on campus to fill our stomach. After a good meal, my friend and classmate nick-named Folly who is today a senior officer in one the services suggested we buy kola nut and top it up with his favourite-Saint Morris.

We obliged and bought kola nuts and cigarettes as suggested. We smoked plenty, topping it up with plenty of kola nut all in the name of dealing a deadly blow to sleep. To my  astonishment, as soon as we got into the post graduate library, my friend who incidentally took more of the gworo and cigarretee,  suddenly pulled off his shirt, dragged a table and was about to do the unexpected-sleep, when I jokingly challenged him and said, ‘old boy, how can you try that after all you have consumed. Of course, that friendly challenge and stupid joke almost resulted in a friendly fight by two friends whose real problem was sleep. To make peace, my good friend was allowed to sleep all night instead of our planned all night jacking (reading).