Sleepiness and driving is a dangerous mix that makes America’s roadways unsafe. Taking place from November 1-8, Drowsy Driving Awareness and Prevention Week is a national campaign to educate motorists about the hazards and serious consequences of drowsy driving. 

Sleepiness has many causes. Research shows that the risk of sleep-related crashes is higher for young males, shift workers, adults with children at home, truck drivers, and people with untreated sleep disorders or with short-term or chronic sleep deprivation. In the United States, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that drowsy driving causes 100,000 police-reported crashes with 71,000 injuries and 1,550 fatalities each year. In Washington State from 2011 to 2015, drowsy drivers caused 308 serious injury and 64 fatal crashes. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Large Truck Crash Causation Study attributed sleepiness and fatigue as factors in at least 18,000 or 13% of all commercial motor vehicle-involved crashes. In crashes involving passenger vehicles, the passenger vehicle driver was twice as likely to be fatigue-impaired when compared to the commercial vehicle driver.

Much like alcohol and drugs, sleepiness impairs a driver’s hand-eye coordination, reaction time, judgement, vision, and situational awareness. Some of the negligent behaviors attributed to drowsy driving include:

  • Distracted driving.
  • Following too closely.
  • Going over the center line.
  • Failure to yield right-of-way to other vehicles, pedestrians, or bicyclists.
  • Disregarding signals (e.g., stop signs, red lights, yield signs, turn signals, etc.).

In Washington State, drowsy driving is illegal and can result in a $550 negligent driving violation. “Drowsy drivers put everyone on the road in danger,” says Washington State Patrol’s Chief John R. Batiste. “This form of impaired driving can be prevented by taking some easy, sensible steps before getting behind the wheel of a vehicle.” The following tips can help truck drivers prevent drowsiness and fatigue:

  • Get enough sleep before getting behind the wheel.
  • Maintain a healthy diet and exercise.
  • Take a break every two hours or 100 miles to refresh.
  • Avoid alcohol, drugs, and medications that cause drowsiness as a side effect.
  • Recognize signs of drowsiness such as frequent yawning, heavy eyes, and blurred vision.
  • Do not rely on “alertness tricks” such as smoking, drinking coffee, rolling down the window, turning up the radio, etc.

More information and training resources to prevent drowsy and fatigued driving:

National Sleep Foundation

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

National Safety Council

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