Driver fatigue is a factor in many motor vehicle accidents. A study of more than 200 accidents by the Federal Highway Administration’s Bureau of Motor Carrier Safety concluded that as driving time increases, driver performance deteriorates, driver alertness decreases and accident probability increases.
Extreme fatigue can affect a driver in many ways. It causes drowsiness, which can, at any moment, turn into total unconsciousness. Fatigue may also produce a mental state that will deceive drivers into believing that they are capable of driving safely. Fatigue also hampers the driver’s ability to correctly judge distances, speed and driving conditions.
Fatigue can cause drivers to imagine conditions that do not exist. A reaction to an imaginary condition has caused many serious accidents. You should be aware of the signs of fatigue so you can take measures to counteract them. While alert, drivers usually sit relatively quiet in their seat. As drivers begin to tire, however, they often become restless, squirming, stretching and rubbing their eyes. You can experience short lapses of attention, lapses that can cause a serious accident.
As drivers tire, they pay less attention to the instrument panel and to the side mirrors. The tired driver will stare fixedly ahead, as if in a trance. Driving patterns will change. There can be irregular or erratic speed changes, weaving back and forth, and finally, crossing the center line or driving off the road entirely. A fatigued driver is a hazard to themselves as well as everyone else on the road.
Some of the precautions a driver can take to combat fatigue are:
- Do not operate a vehicle beyond the Bureau of Motor Carrier Safety limitation on driving time.
- Make frequent rest stops. Any activity that substitutes a different physical act for the monotony of driving helps to refresh the driver.
- Drink coffee or water as they may sharpen your senses.
- Do not take drugs! Certain commonly-used drugs may increase alertness and efficiency for a short period, but may often be followed by headaches, dizziness, agitation, irritability, decreased concentration or hallucinations.
Fatigue sometimes comes on very quickly. Drivers should get off the road before they fall asleep—instead of afterwards. A driver who can barely stay awake should pull well off the road and take an extended rest break.
Since entering the Occupational Health and Safety field in 2008, Simon Mac Innis has been committed to the health and safety of those in the construction and trades industries. Today, he works as a OH&S Manager/Trainer implementing new policies and procedures, maintenance programs, and ensuring a safe environment for employees, brokers, and visitors.