The true cause of many fatigue crashes is sleep deprivation. It's not merely a case of how long your trip is, it is also a case of how much sleep you have had in the nights leading up to the ride and the time of day you are riding. Riding without sufficient sleep can be like riding intoxicated.
Fatigue impairs your ability to perform critical functions of riding resulting in:
- Slower reaction times - fatigue affects your ability to react quickly in the same way that alcohol does. In fact, being awake for 17 hours has the same affect on your driving ability as having a blood alcohol concentration of 0.05.
- Lack of concentration - your short term memory, and ability to process information is significantly decreased as drowsiness increases. This means that errors in calculating speed and distances are more common.
- Reduced vigilance - fatigued riders are more likely to try to avoid hazards, and relax their efforts in situations that demand gradual consideration, such as slowly decelerating to avoid colliding with a vehicle ahead.
Fatigue is one of the major contributors to fatal crashes in Victoria, and is suspected to be a primary cause of approximately 20-30% of road fatalities. Most fatigue-related accidents occur during normal sleeping hours, and the more severe the crash, the more likely it is that the driver or drivers were fatigued.
Fatigue is attributed as a likely factor in almost one third of single-vehicle crashes in rural areas, yet many people believe that fatigue is only a problem for long-distance riders and drivers, or that it's a problem that develops during the journey. The truth is that people don't become fatigued from riding - they're already tired when they get on the bike. Long hours, shift work, lack of sleep, and physically demanding roles all take their toll on riders.
What are the symptoms of fatigue?
Fatigue is easy to detect. Some of the more easily recognised symptoms include:
- Sore or heavy eyes
- Slower reaction times
- Finding you're daydreaming or not concentrating on your riding
- Travelling speed creeps up or down
- Impaired riding performance such as poor gear changes
- Stiffness and cramps
- Other symptoms include loss of motivation, difficulty in concentrating and deterioration of judgement.
Beating rider fatigue
Rider fatigue is not like other road safety hazards.Unlike drink-riding or speeding, tiredness is not a crime - but it can be just as fatal. However, like drink-riding and speeding, riding when you are tired is a matter of choice.
Here's some steps on how you can prevent getting fatigued:
- Get a good night's sleep before heading off on a long trip
- Don't travel for more than eight to ten hours in any one day
- Take regular breaks - at least every two hours
- Don't drink alcohol before your trip. Even a small amount can significantly contribute to rider fatigue.
- Don't travel at times when you'd usually be sleeping.
- Take a 15 minute powernap if you feel yourself becoming drowsy.