For commercial truck drivers, sleepiness is the enemy. Because they are typically paid by the mile driven, down time, including rest and sleep breaks, is non-earning time. Despite federal laws limiting the number of hours a Canadian driver can work in a day, many try to drive extra shifts in order to earn overtime pay, and some resort to chemical stimulants such as amphetamines and cocaine to stay awake. In a 2013 Brazilian study, nearly one third of all truckers interviewed admitted to using one or both of these drugs.
The dangers posed by drowsy driving are not unique to commercial drivers. On the whole, Canadians don’t get enough sleep. A recent UK study concluded that one in three Canadian men are sleep-deprived. Although the impact of this widespread sleepiness has attracted less attention than the problems of distracted driving and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, many safety advocates believe drowsy driving should be considered equally serious. Whether due to inexperience or other factors, drivers in the high risk under-25 group tend to be more prone to drive while drowsy.
The U.S. Foundation for Traffic Safety has found that more than one in five fatal crashes involved a driver falling asleep at the wheel, and Canadian researchers found that drivers who have been awake for more than twenty consecutive hours exhibit signs of impairment equal to those of someone with a .08% blood alcohol level – that is to say, a legally drunk driver.
Dealing With Drowsy Driving
As with drinking and driving or distracted driving, it’s up to the individual driver to avoid driving drowsy. Here are some steps you can take, both before and after you get on the road.
Start Out Well-Rested. Obviously, if you’re tired at the beginning of a trip, you’re not going to get less so as you go. Always try to get at least seven hours of real restful sleep, even if it means leaving home a little bit later.
Drive With a Co-Pilot. There are naturally times when you must travel alone, but whenever possible bring along a companion (preferably a licensed driver who won’t fall asleep and can share the driving). A passenger can watch the driver for the physical signs of fatigue listed below and conversation is a great way to keep one’s mind from wandering too far.
Know The Signs. Don’t ignore the physical signs that you are drowsy. These include:
– Frequent blinking or yawning
– Momentarily “nodding off” or losing visual focus
– Mental wandering or disjointed thoughts
– Unintentionally slowing down because your foot is off the accelerator
– Drifting out of your travel lane
– Not remembering any part of the last few klicks you’ve driven
Take Breaks. Regular rest stops (at least every two hours or 200 kilometres) are essential. Arrange for a break at least every two hours or 200 kilometres. Also, it is well-established that the majority of people with regular daylight schedules are significantly less alert between 2:00-4:00 a.m. and again between 2:00-4:00 p.m. Taking breaks during these times is therefore especially important.
Don’t Just Press On. The little bit of time you might save isn’t worth the risk. If you feel sleep coming on, don’t ignore what your brain and body are telling you. Don’t just open the window to get fresh air or crank up the radio – neither tactic is likely to help much. Instead, if you’re alone, try to find a safe place to pull off the road and take a short nap (15-20 minutes; any longer will probably leave you even drowsier).
Coffee or other caffeinated drinks may help, but their effect isn’t felt immediately. Instead of drinking it on the road, take a break, relax and enjoy a Double Double at Tim Horton’s. Don’t overdo the java or energy drinks, though. Research shows that staying hydrated with plain water and eating light meals or snacks is a more effective way to stay alert.
British Columbia Auto Accident Lawyers
If you’ve been injured in an accident caused by a drowsy, distracted or inattentive driver, the team of lawyers at Diamond and Diamond is ready to help. Call our 24/7 injury hotline at 1-800-567-HURT or visit our website to speak to someone now. We offer free consultations and case evaluations. Our team of personal injury lawyers represent clients throughout British Columbia.