Avoiding Driver Fatigue

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Lack of sleep on the road can be deadly. This is especially the case for the trucking companies who push employees to meet their deadlines, requiring that they drive unreasonable hours per day. Oftentimes they are pushed to drive beyond what is legally allowed. This can lead to severe fatigue, posing a serious threat to themselves and other motorists on highways by causing truck accidents.

Semi trucks, tractor-trailers, 18-wheelers and other commercial vehicles create a hazard especially because of their size. “In Texas, 448 people were killed in crashes involving 18-wheelers and other commercial vehicles. When a tractor-trailer weighing up to 80,000 pounds collides with a passenger vehicle weighing a few thousand pounds, the laws of physics favor the truck” said Texas truck accident attorneys Roberts & Roberts. These types of fatalities can be minimized, if not avoided.

Avoiding driving fatigue is essential for drivers of large and/or commercial vehicles. Fatigue is often ranked as a major factor in causing truck accidents although its contribution to individual cases is hard to measure and is often not reported as a cause of crash. Estimates suggest that fatigue is a factor in up to 30% of fatal crashes and 15% of serious injury crashes.

It is important to acknowledge the signs of fatigue. Common signs of fatigue include the following:
· constant yawning
· drifting over lanes
· sore eyes
· trouble keeping your head upright
· delayed reactions
· daydreaming
· difficulty remembering driving the last few miles
· variations in driving speed

Avoiding fatigue and reducing the risk of truck accidents requires the following:
· Be sure to have 7 to 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep before your trip.
· Do not to drive more than 8 to 10 hours each day.
· Take regular 15 minute breaks at least every two hours. Get out of the vehicle; get some fresh air and stretch.
· If possible share the driving.
· Eat well balanced meals at your usual meal times. Avoid fatty foods which can make you feel drowsy.
· Avoid alcohol and medicines that can cause drowsiness.
· Keep in mind that the chances of crashing are much higher late at night and early morning. This are times when additional attention on the road is especially required.

Drinking coffee, getting fresh air, and/ or listening to loud music will only have short term effects in keeping you awake. Taking “power-naps” may be necessary. Disregarding this information drastically increases your risk of causing a truck accident, and therefore puts many lives in danger. The only cure for fatigue is sleep.

New laws consider the health and well-being of heavy vehicle drivers, and aim to help drivers get home safely by requiring that all parties in the chain of responsibility take reasonable steps to prevent driver fatigue. More information is available from DPTI website or the National Transport Commission website.

Have you had to pull long-shifts on the road? What methods do you use to help cut down on your driving fatigue? Please comment and let us know.

Here is a lighthearted look at what some truckers do to stay awake, and avoid driver fatigue.

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