Falling Asleep at the Wheel – the Dangers of Fatigue When Driving.

You may not think it, but fatigue and tiredness are two of the leading causes of traffic incidents in the UK. In fact, according to FleetNews, one in eight drivers admitted to falling asleep behind the wheel in 2018. In the same study, they also found that 37% of people they asked admitted to driving when so tired, they were scared of falling asleep.

These statistics are terrifying. Especially when you consider just how much damage a speeding vehicle can create when you’re involved in an accident or collision. So, naturally, we as professional truckers must do everything we can to avoid driving when tired or feeling fatigued.

So, we’re going to go over some of the areas of which, if you begin to experience, you should seriously consider stopping your vehicle.

Tiredness.

Everybody gets tired, you can’t avoid it. However, when you begin to show signs of tiredness, you should begin to look for a place to rest and recover. When you’re tired, you’ll likely begin to experience some of the following:

  • Yawning – although not cause for serious concern, yawning is the first sign that you may be coming to the end of your peak performance hours for the day.
  • Heavy Eyelids – more serious than yawning, heavy eyelids are a serious indication that your body needs to rest.
  • Autopilot – when your body begins to perform actions that you’re only semi-aware of, usually beginning with only small actions. Caused by a lack of concentration.

If you experience any of the above, it’s time to consider finding a service station or suitable place to stop and set up for the night. After all, your body can only perform for so long, before it starts being pushed too far. This is not only dangerous for yourself, but also for the truckers and other vehicles on the road around you, as you increase the chances of creating an accident, collision, or worse.

Fatigue.

Although fatigue and tiredness are often confused for the same thing, they’re actually not. Whilst tiredness can occur when you’re approaching the end of your workday, you will begin to experience fatigue when you ignore your body’s signs of being tired. Fatigue is, for lack of a better phrase, Tired 2.0 and, should you begin to experience fatigue, you need to pull into the next available safe place, and begin to settle down. Fatigue can often cause the following:

  • Lack of Concentration – when you’re struggling to focus on the road, and you may begin to temporarily ‘switch off’, not realising where you are. You may also struggle to read road signs.
  • Temporarily Closing Your Eyes – no, we don’t mean blinking. We mean temporarily closing your eyes, either individually or both, in an effort to ease discomfort in your eyes.
  • Driving Over Rumble Strips – put on the road to notify drivers when they drift out of their lane. This can be a simple accident but is extremely common when drivers are suffering from fatigue due to lack of concentration.

Of course, when a driver is tired, but still within their working limits, they may choose to continue driving for a while longer. However, if you’re experiencing fatigue, you should look to rest immediately, as you’re a danger to those on the road.

How to Deal with Tiredness.

Before we continue, it’s important to remember that the points we mention in this section are only suggestions from fellow truckers, not medical professionals. If you’re advised by a medical professional to do something different or avoid our advice, you should always listen to them.

Secondly, remember that these points are only to help combat tiredness, not fatigue. They will help you to push forward a little further, creating as little risk as possible. If you attempt to apply these points when you’re experiencing fatigue, you’re still just as likely to cause an accident or crash as before. Tiredness is an early indication that you’ll need to rest soon, whereas fatigue is when you’re past the point of no return, and the only thing you can do is rest and sleep.

OK, now that we’re clear, let’s get into it:

  • Drinking Caffeinated Drinks – drinks such as coffee, tea, or even an energy drink will help you to combat tiredness for a short time. It’s a smart idea to have a thermos of tea or coffee in your cab when you’re on the road just in case. But if you don’t, or you fancy an energy drink, you can find all of these drinks at almost every service station. However, all of these will make you need the bathroom not long after, and if you’re stopping at a service station to get them, why not just stay there and rest…?
  • Take a Nap – if needed, you can always pull into a service station (again, if you’re doing this, why not stop properly for the night?) and take a short nap of 15-20 minutes. However, one of our favourite stories is that of an American trucker who tried this approach, ended up sleeping for 7 hours, and got fined for staying over the 2-hour limit.
  • Opening the Window – it won’t help a huge amount but opening the window will not only create a strong breeze to rush through your cab but the loud noise it will likely create can also help.
  • Stop and Rest – the best of the bunch, to limit the chance of causing a crash or accident, you should stop in a safe place and rest. Ultimately, if you’re tired or fatigued, it’s because you need to rest and sleep. So, you can try to combat this, and achieve some minor success against feeling tired, but there’s no other treatment for fatigue. And the best remedy for feeling tired is, yes, sleep.

That’s all we’ve got for today, thanks for reading. For more truck-based blogs, click this link. Or, if you’re looking to earn your Driver CPC qualifications, click here.

Stay safe, and we’ll see you on the road.

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