(PRWEB UK) 21 December 2012
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) states that drivers who travel long distances are at a serious risk of suffering from tiredness at the wheel. Furthermore, the organisation estimates that around 20% of all crashes have fatigue as a contributory factor.
With this in mind, iVan felt that it was important to check whether long-haul van drivers – people who travel long distances via the road network for work purposes – are doing their bit to reduce the number of incidents on UK highways as well as keep themselves safe on the job.
The iVan Long-Haul Driver Safety Survey 2012 found that all of the long-haul van drivers questioned had ways of keeping themselves alert during their long journeys, but whereas some of them used advice provided by the Highway Code as their main technique, others used more questionable practices to keep themselves focused.
Keeping alert behind the wheel
While 28.6% of those surveyed stated that they drank caffeinated drinks to keep themselves alert – an effective method listed in the Highway Code – a little more than 21% chose to play music to keep themselves attentive behind the wheel.
Although some studies have shown that music can keep people more awake, other research has proven this wrong – finding that it not only fails to help motorists keep their attention on the road but it might also increase their chances of suffering an accident.
To illustrate this danger, research released by the RAC Foundation showed that drivers were twice as likely to skip a red light if they had music playing in their vehicle. This was just one of the potential ‘side-effects’ of listening to music on the road. It was also found that how a driver behaved when behind the wheel could depend on what type of song was being played.
However, the majority of the long-haul van drivers questioned by iVan about how they remained alert during a long trip used a Highway Code method as their chief way of keeping themselves vigilant.
As well as the 28.6% who drank products containing caffeine, the same number again made sure they had a good amount of sleep before setting off, and more than 14% took plenty of breaks along the way. Roughly 7% used other techniques to stay alert, but did not want to share them with the iVan van insurance team – suggesting that they were not appropriate methods listed by the Highway Code.
How does a long-haul driver keep themselves entertained?
Despite almost a quarter of the long-haul van drivers saying that they used the radio, CD’s or another type of music player to retain alertness, most stated that they listened to music to keep themselves entertained rather than keeping themselves focused, with approximately 71% of motorists listening to music as their primary mode of entertainment when behind the wheel.
As well as some individuals listening to music to avoid boredom, 7.1% sang in order to entertain themselves. Some of the long-haul van drivers who drove in shifts with a co-worker stated that they chatted during their lengthy trips.
Worryingly, about 7% reported that they enjoyed the scenery around them, and around the same number of drivers answered that they looked at Facebook or another social media platform. This seems to suggest that at least 14% of long-haul van drivers are putting themselves and other road users in danger by taking their eyes off the road when attempting to reduce the monotony of certain stretches of highway.
Rest and sleep breaks
Many road safety organisations state that despite there being many ways in which to remain more alert behind the wheel, there is no real replacement for rest breaks and sleep stops when it comes to effectively reducing fatigue.
Taking this into account, iVan was pleased to find that the majority of long-haul van drivers surveyed took breaks for rest and sleep, and, furthermore, had these breaks in appropriate locations.
A little more than 64% percent of long-haul motorists took their breaks at motorway services, around 14% stopped at truck stops or lorry parks – the same number again choosing to use a lay-by - and roughly 7% felt that the time they spent out of their vehicle at client’s premises was a suitable pause from driving.
When it came to getting some sleep during a lengthy trip, iVan was pleasantly surprised to find that 35% of drivers chose to stop at a budget hotel, which is arguably the most comfortable place to get some shut-eye during long-haul journeys. Fourteen percent chose to park up at a truck or lorry stop, where they may also have found a comfortable room available if they did not want to sleep in their vehicle, and the same number again slept in their vehicle in a lay-by.
A further 14% decided to take their rest at a motorway service station, where they may have been at risk of being fined for staying too long.
The remainder of individuals managed to find elsewhere to sleep during their long-haul journeys, or, worryingly, undertook their drive during the day in order to try and avoid needing to sleep. One long-haul van driver stated, “I try and do the journey in one go.”
Although RoSPA states that avoiding driving between 2am and 6am and between 2pm and 4pm will reduce the risk of suffering a fatigue-related accident, undertaking a long journey without breaks at any time of the day or night is dangerous.
Keeping an eye on the weather
The iVan survey also questioned van drivers about whether they checked the weather forecast before they set off on a journey. The statistics gathered in this case used both long-haul drivers and non long-haul participants to get a good overview of van drivers’ habits in general. Seventy percent of the drivers surveyed were long-haul.
The figures revealed that 55% of all van drivers checked the weather forecast before setting off on their journey. Fifteen percent stated that they ‘sometimes’ checked the weather, with some elaborating for researchers by saying that they only verified weather predictions during wintertime. Thirty percent admitted that they never bothered to check the forecast.
When asked if they had ever had to cancel a journey due to poor weather conditions, the results were close. Fifty five percent said that they had never needed to postpone a drive, and 45% said that they had.
Christmas and New Years
To end the survey on a festive note, the participants were asked whether they would change radio channels if a Christmas song came onto the radio. There seemed to be a lot of Christmas cheer amongst the van drivers questioned, since 75% of respondents said that they would not swap channels to escape a merry tune.
However, many were not planning on making a New Year’s resolution – with only approximately 40% stating that they wanted to make a change in their life starting January 1st.
In iVan’s previous survey on van driver health, it was revealed that there was a higher percentage of smokers in the van driving population than in the general population. Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) research released in 2011 had shown that about 21% of people in England were smokers – iVan found that 33% of van drivers were smokers.
Bearing this in mind it is perhaps not surprising that the New Year’s resolution most van drivers were planning on attempting was to stop smoking. More than 37% of individuals wanted to ditch cigarettes.
Twenty-five percent of the surveyed drivers wanted to make healthy changes to their diet, and 12.5% wanted to save some money. iVan wished one particular long-haul driver from the group luck in his endeavor to save some cash, since he said that he hoped to get married at some point in 2013.
Despite this survey, the life and times of van drivers are still slightly shrouded in mystery. Approximately a quarter of those asked about their resolutions did not want to share their plans with the team…