The other day I discussed driver fatigue in a blog entitled “Fatigue – The Hidden Killer in Trucking Accidents.” We went in-depth on how to identify and investigate a fatigue trucking accident but did not discuss some necessary tips for helping drivers avoid driving fatigued. Today, I will discuss how a commercial driver should approach off duty hours as it relates to rest and getting proper sleep before driving again.
Before providing advice, it is important to remember that “one person’s lack of sleep Call contribute to another’s lack of safety on the Nation’s roads. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Senior Research Psychologist Jesse Blatt, fatigue and sleep deprivation contribute to about 100,000 police-reported highway crashes, causing more than 1,500 deaths annually in the United States.” Accordingly, fatigue is a real life issue affecting all motorists on our nation’s roads.
WHAT IS FATIGUE AND WHAT ARE ITS EFFECTS
According to the Commercial Motor Vehicle Driver Fatigue and Alertness Study fatigue causes cognitive impairments that affect vigilance, attention, perception and decision making while one is driving. The above linked report identifies 6 things that fatigue can lead too:
- 1. Increased lapses of attention
- 2. Slower information processing and decision making
- 3. Longer reaction time to critical events
- 4. More variable and less effective control responses
- 5. Decreased motivation to sustain performance
- 6. Decreased psychophysiological arousal (e.g., body temperature, brain waves, heart action)
WHAT DOES THE FMCSA SAY ABOUT PROPER REST
A summary of data collected by the FMCSA found that
- · Driver alertness and performance were more consistently related to time-of-day than to time-on-task. Drowsiness episodes were 8 times more likely between midnight and 6 a.m. than during other times.
- · During their daily main sleep period, drivers slept for only about 5 hours, which was 2 hours less sleep than their "ideal" requirement of slightly over 7 hours.
- · Drivers’ stated self-assessments of their levels of alertness do not correlate well with objective measures of performance. Drivers were not very good at assessing their own levels of alertness.
- · There were significant individual differences among drivers in levels of alertness and performance.
The FMCSA has also found that your body is naturally drowsy, between the hours of 12 a.m. to 6 a.m. and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and recommends that drivers avoid driving during these times.
GET ENOUGH SLEEP BEFORE GETTING BEHIND THE WHEEL
Just because a commercial driver adheres to the hours of service rules does not necessarily mean he or she is not fatigued. The hours of service rules are guidelines to help prevent fatigue but they do not address what a driver does during his or her off duty and/or sleeper berth hours.
The first step is to get enough sleep at night. When you are off duty for ten (10) hours make sure to spend that time resting and sleeping. In many trucking cases, we have seen where the driver was talking on his or her cellular phone all night and/or had been hanging out with friends. That driver may have been off duty for ten (10) hours but failed to get more than 2 hours of sleep. This is problematic in that Federal Regulations state that a driver may not drive when he or she is fatigued.
Secondly, a commercial driver should be familiar with and be able to identify when he or she is fatigued. This is typically hard to do because drivers are paid via miles driven and the monetary interest in completing more miles often outweighs their ability to self access fatigue.
Lastly, when confronted with the symptoms of fatigue simply pull over and take a nap. According to a study entitled “Counteracting driver sleepiness: Effects of napping, caffeine, and placebo” naps should last a minimum of 10 minutes, but ideally a nap should last up to 45 minutes. Allow at least 15 minutes after waking to fully recover before starting to drive.
Fatigued driving is a serious safety risk effecting both truck drivers and the common motorists. Head-on collisions, left of center collisions and rear-end collision are often the result of a driver suffering from the above mentioned effects of fatigue.
Common sense should be the prevailing factor when a driver gets behind the wheel. Don’t put yours or someone else’s life at risk for more miles. It’s simply not worth it.
If you or someone you love has been injured in an Oklahoma car accident, please contact an Oklahoma personal injury lawyer of McIntyre Law by calling toll free 1-877-917-5250.