I think most of us have done it. You’re tired before you even get in the car. You know it’s going to be a struggle, but you just want to get home. You get in the car and from the moment you start the drive, it’s a battle with fatigue. What you do next can define you. When was the last time you drove tired. ?
I did it last week.
Luisa and I had taken our girls to see Taylor Swift in Sydney on a Wednesday night. So I’d worked the breakfast radio shift that morning. My alarm had sounded at 2.45am. I took an early mark from work before 10am and toddled off home to get an hour sleep knowing that I’d need it in the next 24 hours.
We left Canberra at 1pm and made the journey to Sydney. Parked at friends house at Canterbury before taking the train into Central Station and then a bus to Moore Park.
The concert was spectacular. There were 40,000 fans at Allianz Stadium.
It took us till midnight to get back to the car.
I felt good when we left. Before we got to the freeway most of my passengers were asleep. I got ‘the tireds’ just before Pheasant’s Nest. I felt my concentration begin to slide. I heard the sound of those ‘cats eyes’ in the middle of the road as I started to drift over the edge of my lane. It’s not that you’re actually falling sleep, it’s your focus beginning to waver.
I pulled over, got out of the car and went for a bit of a stroll…a good two or three minute walk. I stretched arms and legs and had a drink before getting back in the car.
At Sutton Forrest I stopped and got a coke and some fries. Sugar always lifts you a bit.
I stopped again just before Goulburn and then one final time down by Lake George.
During it all, I kept on asking myself whether my reaction times would stand up to an unexpected event, like a rogue kangaroo or an out of control car. If at any point, I’d believed that the answer was ‘No’, I would have pulled over and grabbed a 15 minute snooze.
In the end I got us home relatively comfortably.
All over our nation the signs say Stop, Revive, Survive.
Please heed their warning.
If you’re off on a long trek over the Christmas period, be safe and be sensible in managing fatigue. It’s easy to say ‘make sure you get 8 hours sleep’ and ‘don’t drive at times when you would normally be sleeping’, but sometimes you don’t have many options.
Every road death in this country is a tragedy, but there is nothing more meaningless than those who lose their lives on our roads because they became unconscious at the wheel.
It can happen to you.