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Risks of Driver Fatigue on the Road

Triumph Insurance Group

November 8, 2016

The risks, dangers, and sometimes tragic outcomes of drowsy driving are alarming.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, NHTSA for short, estimates that at least 100,000 police-reported crashes annually are the direct result of driver fatigue.  That means an average of 1,550 deaths and 71,000 injuries are a result of fatigue-induced accidents.

With the end of Daylight Savings Time and a special event hosted by the National Sleep Foundation, the Drowsy Driving Prevention Week, on November 6-13, there’s no better time than to take a few minutes to review the factors of driver fatigue and what steps you can do to avoid drowsy driving.

While no one is immune to driver fatigue, commercial drivers are at a significantly higher risk due to longer driving hours and distance. To help tackle this issue, be aware of the factors that influence fatigued driving:

  • The number of hours a driver has been awake prior to driving. The brain’s level of concentration begins to drop after the 13th hour of being awake.
  • Quantity and quality of sleep significantly impacts focus.
  • The time of day. Our bodies are biologically programmed to function best at unique intervals in a 24-hour period – usually when the sun is out.
  • Food and drinks consumed prior and throughout the day. Foods heavy in fats and salt can lead to fatigue later in the day, commonly referred to as a food coma. Also, avoid drinks with high sugar content as they are prone to cause sudden tiredness due to a sugar crash.
  • The presence of untreated sleep disorders. Conditions such as obstructive sleep apnea, insomnia, narcolepsy, upper airway obstruction, restless leg syndrome, and periodic limb movements can seriously disrupt sleep.
  • Alcohol consumption or use of sedative drugs.

Most adults feel most rested with seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep.  Failure to get sufficient sleep can lead to a build-up of sleep deprivation and a greater risk of having a fatigued-related accident.

Symptoms of fatigue

Key signs of fatigue include but are not limited to:

  • Increased desire to sleep
  • Frequent yawning
  • Head nodding and/or head shaking
  • Sore or heavy eyes, such as slowed speed of eye movement and increased difficulty to visually focus
  • Slowed reaction times
  • Loss of concentration or attention (daydreaming)
  • Impaired judgment and problems processing information
  • Rapid loss of short-term memory
  • Loss of motivation
  • Increased moodiness, irritability or aggressive behavior

If you begin to feel fatigued behind the wheel, the best scenario is to find a place to stop and sleep, but we know that is sometimes not the case.  Instead, pull off to the side of the highway, turn your hazard lights on, and take a short break.  If needed, take a short 20-30 minute power nap to regain your mental focus – just enough to get to your destination.

Here at Triumph Insurance Group, we understand that accidents can happen. Let us help you protect your investment and make sure your truck is back on the road as soon as possible.