Beware The Effects of Fatigue on Driving
Driving is one of the most dangerous tasks we complete on a daily basis. In fact, we drive so much that we often take its dangers for granted. Professional drivers are especially prone to this as they spend so much time behind the wheel. Since professional drivers are usually required to be at their destination by a certain time, this often means drivers are more concerned with the clock and might be ignoring a hidden danger: the effects of fatigue on driving. We recently spoke with a professional driver who estimates that over the course of his career he has fallen asleep at the wheel over 20 times… that he can remember!
Just think about this. If a driver falls asleep for just four seconds while travelling at a speed of 100 km/h, the car will have gone 111 metres without a driver in control.
Fatigue and driving an automobile just don't mix and the stats are telling. Roughly 20% of all non-fatal automobile accidents are caused in part by driver fatigue, while it is also a contributing factor in almost 20% of the fatal traffic accidents across Canada. The crazy thing is these numbers are in all likelihood higher, as driver fatigue and drowsiness are hard to assess after an accident. Who are most at-risk for driving while fatigued? You guessed it, professional/commercial drivers.
Driving while fatigued is very similar to driving while intoxicated, and I think we all know just how dangerous that is. A person who has been awake for 17 straight hours faces the same risk of a crash as someone who has a blood alcohol level roughly the legal limit. If that same person has been awake for 24 hours, they are impaired to a similar degree as someone who is far over the legal limit.
There are three main areas where fatigue affects drivers the most, and any combination of these three factors can be the difference between a safe journey and a crash.
Reaction Time – Awareness – Judgement
Reaction time, awareness and judgement are three of driving's most important skills and fatigue negatively affects them all. By slowing your reaction time by a half-second, decreasing your situational awareness and clouding your ability to think clearly, driving while fatigued puts the driver at a serious disadvantage… a disadvantage that could be deadly. When driving drowsy, polls show that drivers also feel more stress, impatience and a tendency to even drive faster. Combine all of these factors and you have an incredibly unsafe situation.
Driving while fatigued is one of the most dangerous situations any driver can put themselves in. In order to avoid such a dangerous situation, professional drivers need to be aware of the precautions and warning signs. Being awake for more than 17 hours is a huge warning sign, and is probably a good time to pull over and take a driving break. Constant yawning, an inability to remember the last few kilometres or drifting in and out of your lane is probably another indication that your sleep tank is running on empty.
Remember, it's better to pull over and drive tomorrow then to fall asleep and crash today.