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Avoiding Driver Fatigue

While the National Transportation Safety Board continues its investigation regarding the Bronx bus accident, killing 15 people in early March, many speculate that the accident occurred as a result of driver fatigue. Symptoms of driver fatigue include heavy eyelids, frequent yawning, daydreaming or feeling fidgety and irritable. A fatigued driver may drift over road lines, change vehicle speeds for no reason, and often misjudge traffic situations. Even if a driver falls asleep for four to five seconds, a car can travel up to 100 yards, resulting in fatal consequences. Delayed driver reaction time makes fatigue-related crashes more sever than others. In most cases, driver fatigue occurs while on long road trips. The average person needs seven or eight hours of sleep a night, so don’t skimp on sleep prior to a long drive. Coffee and other caffeinated beverages may be effective in the short term but are not a substitute for sleep. Also, fresh air and open windows have no lasting effect on your ability to stay awake. Don’t rely on the quick fix; plan ahead. Give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination and schedule breaks every two hours. Here are some other tips to take into consideration:

  • Don’t work a full day and drive for hours knowing you are tired
  • Don’t drink alcohol the night before driving as this may impair your judgment
  • Avoid driving during your normal sleep hours
  • Check your medication to see if it causes drowsiness, and plan your trip to avoid peak effects of medication
  • Share driving responsibilities with another on long trips

Most importantly, recognize and address sleepiness when it develops. Utilize rest areas on the highway or check in to a hotel. As a driver it is your responsibility to be alert at all times, so remember to plan ahead to ensure not only your own safety but also others on the road. Source: “Are We There Yet: Practical and Safe Vacation Travel Tips.” Injury Board Spring 2010: 17.