We are all very aware of the dangers involved with driving while intoxicated; the serious and often deadly results. There is another equally deadly combination on our roadways – driving and fatigue!
Most drivers do not realize the risks of driving while fatigued and have poor knowledge about the speed of onset of fatigue. They may feel tired but think they can keep going in order to reach their intended destination without stopping. What warning signs should we watch for to identify dangerously fatigued drivers?
- daydreaming while on the road
- driving over the center line
- excessive yawning
- feeling impatient
- feeling stiff
- heavy eyes
- reacting slowly
When a driver feels tired the reaction is often to drink coffee, open a car window, turn on the radio and take other steps to try and restore alertness. The problem with these solutions is that fatigue also impairs the driver’s cognitive functions and taking steps to keep awake while driving is a bad idea that can lead to a serious accident.
In order to avoid injury to the your passengers, and other drivers, pull over and stop driving when you feel the signs of fatigue overtaking you. If possible, have another occupant in the vehicle drive. If no one is with you, call someone or pull off the roadway in a safe location and rest.
It has been shown that driver fatigue occurs in two distinct ways – as a state prior to getting into the car (prior sleep deprivation) and as a state immediately prior to falling asleep at the wheel. Both are significant because chronically fatigued and/or sleepy drivers make bad decisions, much like a driver impaired by alcohol. A badly fatigued driver can be expected to have discounted all earlier signs of fatigue, including obvious impairments to continue driving.
Ways you can avoid fatigue include:
- Avoid alcohol–this simply adds to fatigue and is illegal;
- Avoid large meals just before driving;
- Avoid medications that might increase drowsiness;
- Establish a realistic driving plan and stick to it;
- Share the driving whenever possible and limit driving to no more than (2) hours at a time;
- Take a break from driving every (2) hours;
- Stay well hydrated–dehydration worsens fatigue;
- Get plenty of sleep–the average person needs six to none hours every night.
All drivers need to be aware that driving while fatigued is as dangerous as driving while under the influence. We all need to be mindful that many lives are lost each year because someone got behind the wheel of a vehicle that was too tired to safely drive it.
Take the fatigued driver quiz.