Fatigue is the result of physical or mental exertion that impairs performance. Driver fatigue may be due to a lack of adequate sleep, extended work hours, strenuous work or non-work activities, or a combination of other factors.
The Large Truck Crash Causation Study completed for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reported that 13 percent of Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) drivers were considered to have been fatigued at the time of their crash.
Be sure to get an adequate amount of sleep each night. If possible, do not drive while your body is naturally drowsy, between the hours of 12 a.m. to 6 a.m. and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Driver drowsiness may impair a driver’s response time to potential hazards, increasing the chances of being in a crash.
If you do become drowsy while driving, be sure to choose a safe place to pull over and rest. A study by the FMCSA found that driver alertness was related to ”time-of-day” more so than “time-on-task”. Most people are less alert at night, especially after midnight.
If possible, you should take a nap when feeling drowsy or less alert. 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.
If you plan to get behind the wheel, avoid medications that may make you drowsy. Most drowsiness-inducing medications include a warning label indicating that you should not operate vehicles or machinery during use. Some of the most common medicines that may make you drowsy are tranquilizers, sleeping pills, allergy medicines and cold medicines.
In a recent study, 17 percent of CMV drivers were reported as having “over-the-counter drug use” at the time of a crash. Cold pills are one of the most common medicines that may make you drowsy. If you must drive with a cold, it is safer to suffer from the cold than drive under the effects of the medicine.
Behaviors such as smoking, turning up the radio, drinking coffee, opening the window, and other “alertness tricks” are not real cures for drowsiness and may give you a false sense of security.