It’s one thing to be a bit tired in the last few miles of your drive before getting some shut-eye. It’s another to be drive while experiencing fatigue, which is defined as the result of physical or mental exertion which impairs performance and may come about due to a lack of adequate sleep, extended work hours, strenuous activities, or a combination of these or other factors.
The LTCCS (Large Truck Crash Causation Study) reported that 13% of commercial motor vehicle drivers were fatigued at the time of their crash. On that note, we’ve referenced the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) recommendations to offer six genuine tips to avoid driver fatigue.
- Get a substantial amount of sleep before driving at all.
Do your best to get an adequate amount of sleep every night for all kinds of reasons pertaining to your health and wellbeing, but especially if you’re planning to drive the next day. It’s also best not to drive in the early morning hours when your body is naturally drowsy, as even drowsiness can impair your response time, which increases your chances of being in an accident. A study by the FMCSA indicates that driver alertness is more-so related to the time of day the driving is being done rather than how much time has been spent driving—most people are less alert at night, particularly after midnight, so this natural drowsiness caused by your sleep cycle may be enhanced if you’ve been driving for an extended period of time.
If you do become drowsy while driving, it’s best to pull over and rest or stop for the night entirely rather than risk your safety.
- Maintain a healthy diet.
Much like getting enough sleep, maintaining a healthy diet will help in a wide variety of aspects of your life. More specifically though, skipping meals or eating at irregular times may leave you fatigued. Additionally, going to bed with an empty or too-full stomach can interfere with sleep. Try a light snack before bed to get a more restful session of sleep.
- Go the extra (figurative) mile—take a nap!
Naps are more effective at restoring energy levels than coffee. Instead of going an extra mile, take the time to get a power nap and then allow at least fifteen minutes to fully wake up before you get back behind the wheel. Ideally, a nap should last 45 minutes, but if that’s not doable, make sure your nap lasts for at least ten—it’s also wise to nap before you start feeling drowsy, as naps taken to prevent drowsiness are generally more effective than those taken when a person is already drowsy.
- Avoid medications with fatigue-inducing side effects.
If you plan to get behind the wheel, avoid any medications—such as tranquilizers, sleeping pills, allergy medicines, and cold medicines—that have the potential to make you drowsy. Most medications that may cause you to become fatigued include a warning label indicating that you should not operate vehicles or machinery while in use. Cold pills are one of the most common medications that may make you drowsy—in that case, it’s probably better and safer to suffer from the cold for a while than to drive under the influence of those medicines.
- Remain aware of your energy levels.
Learn to pay attention to your body and recognize the signals it gives when you begin to become drowsy—frequent yawning, heavy feeling in your eyes, and blurred vision to name a few. Research has indicated that being awake for about 18 hours is comparable to having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent, which is legally intoxicated with the ability to leave you at an equal risk of crashing.
As an example of how serious these instances can become, on October 16, 2005 at around 2 a.m., a 23-year-old commercial motor vehicle driver fell asleep behind the wheel, which caused him to enter a ditch and eventually roll his truck over on both westbound lanes of Interstate 94. Just moments later, a charter bus carrying a school band crashed into the truck, killing five and injuring 29 others. As a result of that crash, the CMV driver was charged with five counts of homicide by negligent operation of a vehicle and 29 counts of reckless driving that caused great bodily harm. If convicted, he could have faced nearly 90 years in prison.
- Don’t rely on “easy tricks to stay awake” to ensure that you stay awake.
“Tricks” such as smoking, turning up the radio, drinking coffee, opening the window, and acts like this aren’t real cures for drowsiness and only serve to give you a false sense of security. Drinking coffee in excess can cause insomnia, headaches, irritability, and anxiety, all of which will both hinder your ability to sleep when you need to and cause additional distractions and discomforts to you while you’re in the act of driving.
Do your best to be safe on the road to keep yourself out of harm’s way and do the same for others. If you or a loved one has been the victim of a car or trucking accident in Indiana, contact us for a free evaluation today.
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