Recognizing Driver Fatigue
Driving while fatigued is a significant road safety concern: 20% of fatal collisions involve driver fatigue, and it is a likely factor in almost one third of single-vehicle crashes in rural areas.The Canadian Trucking Association reports that 30 to 40% of crashes in the heavy truck industry are related to fatigue, while a 2007 survey found that 60% of Canadian drivers occasionally drove while fatigued and 15% admitted to falling asleep while driving during the past year.
There are two types of fatigue, both of which can lead to vehicle accidents:
- Physical fatigue, which is the result of physically demanding duties that leave your muscles exhausted, and unable to respond as quickly or as effectively as they did when you started the day. In terms of driving, physical fatigue translates to longer reaction times and inaccurate or incorrect responses.
- Mental fatigue, which is the physiological state or condition that decreases mental performance capabilities and impairs cognitive abilities. Mental fatigue reduces driver alertness, focus, attentiveness and decision-making ability in ways that reduce their ability to perform key driving functions.
It is important to understand the primary contributors to fatigue, so that you can do your best to minimize or avoid them. Contributors to fatigue include:
- Sleep Loss: For optimal performance, most people require 7.5 to 8.5 hours of sleep every night. Acute sleep loss occurs when a person gets less sleep than necessary within a 24-hour period, while cumulative sleep loss occurs over several days.
- Continuous Hours of Wakefulness: Being awake for too long without sleep can also result in fatigue; 16 or more hours of continuous wakefulness is associated with significantly reduced performance and alertness.
- Disruption of Sleep Cycles: Our bodies are hard-wired to respond to environmental stimuli, especially light and dark. People function best with traditional patterns of daytime wakefulness and night time sleep. Lifestyles and work that run contrary to that cycle (e.g. evening and night work shifts) confuse one’s “built-in” sleep cycle or circadian rhythm, resulting in accumulated fatigue and over-taxed human performance.
- Sleep Disorders: Sleep apnea, insomnia, night terrors, and other sleep disorders greatly reduce sleep quality. Eight hours of tossing and turning, dozing and waking does not equal eight hours of sleep.
- Medications: Some prescription medications (such as heart, blood pressure and asthma drugs) and over-the-counter medicines (such as pain relievers, cold decongestants, antihistamines and diet pills) contain caffeine or other stimulants that interrupt normal sleep patterns.
- Stress and Workloads: An 8-hour day that starts with a long commute and is filled with demands, complex problems, difficult customers, hard decisions, challenging patients or lost shipments is tiring enough. By the time you’re driving home, any delays caused by a traffic incidents can leave you frustrated, stressed-out and exhausted – and certainly in less-than-prime condition to diligently complete your driving responsibilities.
For more information on driver fatigue and its relationship to road safety, please see Fatigue Basics by Road Safety at Work (2014).
Tia Chisholm, HUB International TRANSPORTATION
HUB International TRANSPORTATION specialists are based in Vancouver. Our longstanding relationships with the best providers in the business allow us to deliver the solution that serve you best. With HUB, you can run your business knowing that you are headed in the right direction.