Being a diligent driver starts with being aware – drowsy driving is preventable.
Sleepiness can slow down your reaction time, decrease awareness, impair judgment, and increase your risk of crashing. Whenever you are getting ready to drive, ask yourself, “Am I alert enough to operate a 3,000-pound moving machine on public roads?”
Before getting into the car with someone or driving yourself, ask the following:
1. Are you sleep-deprived or fatigued? Are you suffering regularly from sleep problems? Less than 6 hours of sleep triples your risk of falling asleep while driving!
2. Are you planning to drive long distances without proper rest breaks?
3. Will you be driving through the night, mid-afternoon, or when you would normally be asleep?
4. Are you taking medications that can make you sleepy such as antidepressants, cold tablets, or antihistamines?
5. Have you been working for more than 60 hours a week? A tightly-packed work schedule increases your risk of drowsy driving by 40%.
6. Have you been working more than one job and your main job involves shift work?
7. Did you drink alcohol? Even a small amount of alcohol can have an impact on your body.
Be proactive. Plan every short and long trip ahead of time. Ask a friend to join you on long-distance drives, so that your companion can help look for early warning signs of driver fatigue and switch drivers when needed.
8 Drowsy Driving Warning Signs to Watch for:
1. Finding it hard to focus on the road, frequent blinking, or heavy eyelids
2. Starting to daydream, wandering eyes, and have disconnected thoughts
3. Having trouble remembering the last few miles driven
4. Missing an exit or ignoring traffic signs
5. Yawning repeatedly or rubbing your eyes
6. Finding it hard to keep your head up or nodding off
7. Drifting from your lane, tailgating, or hitting a shoulder rumble strip
8. Feeling restless and irritable, or becoming aggravated with common annoyances such as sitting in traffic.
If you notice these warning signs for drowsy driving, pull over to a safe place and get some rest, stretch, or drink a caffeinated beverage. Continue driving when you feel alert and refreshed.
Specific At-Risk Groups for driving sleep-deprived
Some groups of drivers are at greater risk for drowsy-driving crashes. Research has shown there are 5 key groups of focus.
- Young drivers — especially males under 25 years old.
- Shift workers and people with long work hours — working the night shift can increase your risk of drowsy driving by nearly six times. Rotating-shift workers and people working more than 60 hours a week need to be particularly careful.
- Commercial drivers — especially long-haul drivers. At least 15% of all heavy truck crashes involve fatigue and sleep-deprived driving.
- People with undiagnosed or untreated disorders — People with untreated obstructive sleep apnea have up to seven times the risk of falling asleep at the wheel.
- Business travelers — who spend long hours driving or may be jet-lagged from a previous trip.
For more information about drowsy driving, visit the Drowsy Driving Prevention Week page to learn more.
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Consider these pro tips before you get behind the wheel!
• New drivers need seat time to learn; rushing them is a mistake.
• Always be prepared for anything. It’s easier to stay out of trouble than get out of trouble.
o Drive according to road conditions, especially in winter, and take your time.
o Be able to stop under any condition in half the distance you can see.
o Never tailgate! You can’t see what’s in front of the vehicle ahead of you.
o Before you head out, check out the road reports and traffic cams along your route, especially if the weather looks iffy.
• Don’t rush your work, whether loading, tarping, or driving. Take a good a look at conditions and if it doesn’t look right—it isn’t.
• When it comes to safety, you are responsible. Own it! Don’t be afraid to refuse unsafe work, tires, equipment, and especially your personal health and safety.
o It’s a load. It’s not worth risking your life over if the conditions are too bad to drive safely.
o If you are uncertain about your rights regarding workplace health and safety, look for free WorkSafeBC webinars at safetydriven.ca
o Know your rights pertaining to safety. Among your legislated rights is the right to work safely without fear of punishment by the employer for refusing unsafe work.
• Know your own and your equipment’s limitations. Talk to your safety team about a winter refresher. Asking another driver for advice is helpful, but remember that he/she is driving their unit, with their skills, and you are driving yours.
Winter brings its own challenges! Stay safe by not taking changes. Remember—it’s a load. It’s not worth risking your life if conditions are unsafe.
• Make sure you have the right equipment, including tires and chains when necessary. Remember that tire technology has chained. Tires meant for California cannot withstand the rigours of winter highway miles in Canada. The right tires matter when you chain up.
• Keep your headlights and taillights clean and free of snow. See and be seen.
• If you are spinning your tires at the bottom of the hill, put your chains on. It’s not going to improve as you go up to the top.
• How do you know when not to go? Before you start your truck, if the snow is up to your eye line, stay home. The snow is only going to get deeper.
• Black ice is serious risk. It’s pretty much invisible—watch for a light sheen on the road or vehicles ahead sliding.
If you don’t know—ask. There are no wrong questions. Your safety committee is there to help you. And there is no time after an incident or accident for safety. SafetyDriven resources will help you—reviewing them before something goes wrong could save your day.
Visit SafetyDriven.ca for free online resources to help you make your company safer.