Estimates are that around 100,000 police-reported road crashes each year are caused by driver drowsiness and fatigue, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  Drowsiness is as dangerous to driving as falling asleep at the wheel.  When drivers are tired and have stared at the little white line in the middle of the road too long, it causes a trance-like state.  Road trance can result in slow perceptions and reaction times, and can leave drivers unable to remember how they even got to their destinations.  Most drivers have probably experienced this driving fatigue at one time or another.  Some of the basic causes of fatigue are lack of sleep, poor diet, being overweight, lack of exercise, and drinking alcohol.  If you are planning a long road trip, or drive for a living, you should take an active part in prevention when it comes to driving in a tired or distracted state. 

Truck Driver Fatigue 

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety report that each year truck crashes kill over 5,000 people and injure almost 150,000 more on our nation’s roads and highways.  Large trucks are involved in multiple-vehicle fatal crashes at twice the rate of passenger vehicles.  Almost 800 large truck occupants, almost all of them drivers, die each year in these crashes.  Commercial drivers become fatigued from excessive daily and weekly work hours.  The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reports that more than 750 people die and 20,000 more are injured each year due directly to fatigued commercial vehicle drivers.  Drivers are limited to a certain amount of continuous driving; however, many times they are loading and unloading their cargo, which adds to their hours of work.  A proposed safety rule is that long-haul and regional drivers are required to use tamper-proof devices such as Electric On-Board Recorders, which monitor actual daily and weekly driving time. 

Symptoms of Driver Fatigue and Road Trance:

  • Eyes burning;
  • Heavy eyelids;
  • Muscles twitching;
  • Inability to focus eyes;
  • Yawning;
  • Wandering thoughts and disconnections;
  • Limbs feeling heavy, or numb, light and tingly;
  • Shallow breating. 

Recommendations to Help Prevent Driver Fatigue and Road Trance:

  • Regular exercise;
  • Eat a balanced, healthy diet;
  • Start your trip as early in the day as possible;
  • Don’t eat a heavy meal before driving;
  • Avoid driving alone whenever possible;
  • Keep driver’s area cool and well-ventilated;
  • Talk to passengers without being distracted;
  • Be alert for road and traffic signs;
  • Take breaks every two hours or 100 miles; (may be difficult for long-haul drivers.)
  • On break, get out of vehicle and walk or stretch.
  • Avoid alcohol and any medications that could cause drowsiness.
  • If it is necessary, stop and take a 20-minute nap; sleeping longer will make you feel groggy. 

These suggestions from the Texas Department of Insurance, Division of Workers’ Compensation, may help avoid accidents that often result from driver fatigue and road trance.  An alert driver is a safe driver.  Remember to practice safety at all times. Don’t learn it by accident!