There is a serious problem occurring on America’s roadways. Trucking companies and truck drivers do everything they can to avoid it. Companies have developed special equipment and products to combat it, yet it still plagues commercial drivers and non-commercial drivers alike.
Here are some statistics about “the problem”:
Causes 100,000 traffic accidents each year
Causes 71,000 injuries each year
Causes over 1,500 deaths each year
Is responsible for 1 in 6 fatal accidents each year
Causes $12.5 BILLION in losses and damages each year
60% of drivers admit to doing it in the past year
94% of drivers admit to doing it in their life time
96% of drivers say that it is an unacceptable practice
100% of people are able to prevent or avoid it
Sounds like some kind of epidemic, doesn’t it? Whatever you call it-Sleepy Street, Drowsy Drive, Tired Trail, Weary Way, Fatigue Freeway, or Pooped-Out Parkway-DROWSY DRIVING has become one of the most dangerous and least talked about problems of our time. Because of inconsistent tracking and reporting by law enforcement and traffic safety agencies, estimates on accidents caused by tired driving range from 15% to 55%.
“I only nodded off once. It’s no big deal.” When you’re tired your faculties are not at fully functioning levels. Here are some of the things that sleepiness can cause:
Slower than usual reaction times
Lapses in judgment of depth and time
Blurred or obscured vision (you can’t see through your eyelids)
Delays in the processing of sensory information
If you have been alive for the last 30 years, you probably noticed that all of these things sound like another popular traffic safety campaign-drinking and driving. That’s because studies have found that lack of sleep has the same effect on a driver’s cognitive abilities as consuming alcohol.
In fact, a normal adult who has been awake for 18 hours has the same amount of impairment as a person with a BAC of.05%. Some one who has been awake for 24 hours has the same level of physical and mental impairment as a person with a BAC level of.10%. Interestingly enough, all 50 states have adopted.08% BAC as the legal limit for Driving While Intoxicated; the magic number for commercial drivers is.04% BAC.
Warning Signs and Counter Measures
Well-known sleep physician, Dr. William Dement puts it pretty plainly, “Drowsiness is the last step before falling asleep, not the first. Drowsiness means you are seconds away from falling asleep.” He also adds, “The crucial event that occurs as we fall asleep is an abrupt shut down of the neural processes that allow us to perceive the world around us. At one moment we are awake, and can see and hear. A fraction of a second later we are asleep, and we are completely blind and completely deaf.”
Most people can use common sense to determine whether they are tired or not. But-just in case-here is a list of warning signs that you maybe headed down the Half-Awake Highway:
Trouble remembering the last few miles
Drifting between lanes
Drifting onto the shoulder/rumble strips
Now that you know what being tired looks like, here are some things you can do to avoid a dangerous situation for you and for all the other drivers on the road.
Before you feel sleepy…
Get 7-9 hours of sleep the previous night
Take breaks every 2-3 hours of driving (or every 100-200 miles)
Bring along someone (or something) to talk to
Avoid alcohol or sedating medications
If you start to feel drowsy as you drive…
This one is tricky… STOP THE VEHICLE! Don’t try to fight against the fatigue; acknowledge it. Pull over at the next available exit or rest area. They call it a “Rest Area” for a reason. So pull over and…
Take a nap. A 15-30 minute nap will leave you feeling refreshed and recharge your batteries so you can make it safely to your destination.
After you wake up…
Drink caffeine. A big ol’ cup of coffee or an energy drink/supplement-coupled with a nap-will help boost your energy and keep you alert and awake.
Those with truck driving jobs are well aware of the day-to-day dangers involved in their profession. Chances are, due to deadline and schedule pressures; you are among the drivers who have fallen asleep at the wheel. If you’re reading this, then you made it out alive. But not everyone is so lucky. For the unfortunate drivers, the accident victims, and all of their families, commit to not driving while you are tired or drowsy. It’s not worth your life or someone else’s life. So take precaution where you start to feel a little drowsy. Your life depends on it!