Distracted behind the wheel? It could be your fatigue trigger.

Another year is nearly done. It’s December and we’re tired – physically, mentally and emotionally, and we’re in a new COVID wave. Our attitude for the last month? Just push through, because we are so ready to close 2023 out.

So we know we’re fatigued but we know how to manage it, especially when it comes to driving, because we know the risk and signs to watch for – yawning or heavy eyes means it’s time to pull over.

But are these common signs of fatigue the only ones?


Know your trigger

Every driver should know their fatigue triggers, and when they start we should know it’s time to take a break.

A common early trigger that many drivers don’t associate with fatigue is increased distraction.

When we’re fatigued, our brains start looking for thoughts or activities to keep us awake –distractions.

It is also natural to become distracted when we perform repetitive tasks. Our minds are designed to be stimulated, and when they get bored by a task such as driving, they find other things to do.

Driver distraction occurs when we allocate attention to a non-safety critical activity. In-vehicle distraction has been shown to represent a specific risk for professional drivers, contributing to up to 30 per cent of collisions [1].


When fatigued, our brains can’t perform as well as when we’ve had a good night’s sleep and feel energised [2]. Even a simple task like changing the radio station demands more of our attention, increasing the risk of making a mistake [3].

So, if you combine fatigue and distraction, you’re compounding the risk because a fatigued driver is becoming distracted to find tasks to stimulate the brain and stay awake. Fiddling with the stereo, moving around in your seat or fidgeting with items around the driver, for example, each of which take your eyes and mind off the road.

Theory into practice

As 2023 draws to a close and over the holiday break, keep an eye out for your fatigue triggers and put these actions in place:

  • Identify what distracts you the most.
  • Know yourself and be aware of early fatigue warning signs. Other fatigue triggers may include increased aggression, legs shaking, rubbing your head or lane drifting.
  • Prioritise your sleep – create good sleep hygiene habits.
  • Schedule breaks into your day.
  • You can’t beat fatigue, so pull over, have a break or a 20-minute power nap.
  • Join our Blog and let us know what fatigue triggers you identify


1.     European Transport Safety Council, “How to Improve the Safety of Goods Vehicles in the EU?,” European Transport Safety Council, Brussels, 2020.

2.     National Road Safety Partnership Program (NRSPP), “NRSPP Quick Fact: The Problem With Driver Fatigue,” 2019. [Online]. Available: https://www.nrspp.org.au/resources/nrspp-quick-fact-the-problem-with-driverfatigue/

3.     R. J. Hanowski, M. A. Perez and T. A. Dingus, “Driver Distraction in Long-Haul Truck Drivers,” Transportation Research Part F, no. 8, pp. 441-458, 2005.

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