car insurance: Driver Fatigue

driver fatigueAre you driving impaired? Most people are aware of the dangers of drinking and driving but don’t realize that driving while drowsy can be just as fatal. Like alcohol, driver fatigue slows reaction time, decreases awareness, impairs judgment and increases the risk of crashing.

In fact, studies show that if you go without sleep for 18 hours straight, you suffer from a level of impairment that is equal to having a blood alcohol level of .05%. If you go without sleep for 24 hours, the impairment is equal to having a .1% blood alcohol level.

At least 20% of Canadians – an estimated 4.1 million people – admit they have nodded off at the wheel in the past 12 months. Every year, more than 400 Canadians die and many more are injured because of drowsy or tired drivers. Why are drivers tired?

There are many causes of fatigue and, where drivers are concerned, they add up to greatly increase the risk of a fatigue-related crash. Be aware that the following factors can cause you to be drowsy behind the wheel:

  • too little sleep;
  • interrupted or fragmented sleep;
  • chronic sleep debt (too little, or poor-quality sleep over an extended period of time);
  • long periods of time awake and time spent on a task;
  • ignoring your internal clock (e.g., some people are less alert in the middle of the afternoon);
  • time of day;
  • extreme/irregular driving patterns or work schedules;
  • undiagnosed or untreated sleep disorders;
  • use of medications that have sedative effects; and
  • consumption of alcohol when already tired.

Who’s at risk?

Driver fatigue isn’t just a problem for truck and bus drivers;it can affect any driver.

Those most at risk of fatigue impairment are:

  • commercial vehicle drivers
  • new/young drivers, especially young men
  • shift and split-shift workers
  • people suffering from sleep disorders
  • drivers whose lifestyle affects the quality and quantity of their sleep

How do I tell if I’m at risk?

If you notice any of the following symptoms, do the only thing that will stop driver fatigue: Pull off the road to a safe spot and have a nap.

  • loss of concentration
  • drowsiness and yawning
  • slow reactions
  • sore or tired eyes
  • boredom
  • irritability
  • missing road signs
  • drifting out of your lane
  • nodding off

Fatigue impairment can be prevented. Always be sure to start your trip well rested, plan to take breaks every two hours, and avoid driving between 1 a.m. and 7 a.m., when your body naturally craves sleep. Most importantly, if you feel tired, don’t drive.

Tips to avoid drowsy driving:

  • Keep your mind alert.
  • Listen to talk shows or up-tempo music.
  • Try to have company on long trips.
  • Change position frequently, keeping your head up and shoulders back.
  • Chew gum.
  • Actively watch road signs and traffic.
  • Every 2 hours or if you start to feel sleepy, pull off the road for a break, exercise and fresh air.
  • When possible, spend the night at a hotel or stop in a safe place to take a nap.
  • Don’t rely on coffee!

Be careful about what you eat and drink. Coffee, sugar or other stimulants may wake you up physically but not mentally. Drink water, juice or soft drinks low in sugar and caffeine. Avoid alcohol and medications (including cold remedies). If you require medication, consult with your doctor to minimize effects on driving.

Remember, if you’re driving tired, you’re driving impaired!

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