Strathcona County, Alberta – Most people are aware of the dangers of drinking and driving but don’t realize that fatigued driving can be just as fatal. Like alcohol, fatigue impairment slows reaction time, decreases awareness, impairs judgment and increases the risk of being involved in a collision. Being awake for 23-24 hours causes the same impairment as having a blood alcohol level of 0.05.
Lack of sleep is one of the most common causes of fatigued driving. Other contributing factors include driving alone, driving long distances without rest breaks and driving through the night, or at times when the driver normally sleeps. Taking medication that increases sleepiness or drinking alcohol also contributes to driver fatigue.
People most at risk for falling asleep at the wheel are shift workers (irregular work schedules), commercial drivers, people with untreated sleep disorders, teenagers and young adults. Recognizing the symptoms of a fatigued driver can help prevent these collisions.
You may think drinking coffee, chewing gum, or rolling down the window will help you stay awake but they won’t.
Warning signs of driver fatigue
- Inability to keep eyes focused and head up.
- Having wandering, disconnected thoughts.
- Driving the past few kilometres without remembering them.
- Drifting between lanes, tailgating or missing traffic signs
- Noticing a vehicle in the rear view mirror that seemed to appear out of nowhere.
How to reduce driver fatigue
- Stop if you become sleepy while on the road.
- Get plenty of sleep the night before a long trip.
- Avoid working all day and then driving all night. Stay overnight rather than driving straight through.
- Schedule a break every two hours or every 160 km. Stretch or take a walk to get some fresh air.
- Travel with an awake and alert passenger. Having someone to chat with will keep the driver awake and the passenger can also let the driver know if he/she is showing any signs of fatigue.
“Drivers who are fatigued are more likely to be involved in a collision and put other road users at risk” says Cst. Chantelle Kelly of the Strathcona County RCMP, “It impacts driver’s attention and alertness and may lead to driver error.