Drowsy driving kills. While the exact number of crashes is unknown due to the difficulty of determining this cause, it’s estimated that drowsy driving causes at least 100,000 car accidents in the United States annually. Commercial trucks and big rigs are the most dangerous vehicles to be involved in drowsy driving accidents. Their massive size and weight make these crashes more likely to cause catastrophic and fatal injuries. Unfortunately, truckers are also the highest-risk drowsy drivers. Avoid becoming a statistic by driving alert, aware, and awake.
Truckers are More Susceptible to Drowsy Driving
Any driver may be guilty of driving drowsy, but truck drivers are especially at risk. Long hours on the road, tight deadlines, and pressure from employers can all contribute to drowsy driving. While a regular driver can pull off the road and nap until it’s safe to drive, a truck driver on a strict deadline to deliver cargo may not have this luxury. Instead, truckers push themselves past the breaking point and into the danger zone. For this reason, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) created an hours of service schedule that all truck drivers must obey.
The hours of service rule requires all commercial motor vehicle drivers carrying property cargo have an 11-hour maximum driving limit, only after 10 consecutive hours of being off duty. A driver may not drive longer than 14 consecutive hours. Sadly, job pressures can make truckers ignore the hours of service rule and push themselves too hard to meet deadlines. Trucking companies may offer incentives such as bonuses for drivers who deliver cargo ahead of schedule. These practices contribute to trucker fatigue on the road.
How Drowsiness Affects Driving
Drowsy driving can be just as dangerous as drunk driving. In both situations, the driver’s judgment, reaction time, and cognition are impaired. Sleepiness can slow a driver’s reflexes, leading to a higher chance of collision. Drivers who fall asleep behind the wheel can swerve off the road or crash into other vehicles or pedestrians on the roadway. Many drivers believe they can still pay attention to the road while drowsy, but the fact is that no one can determine the moment they fall asleep. A tired driver can easily doze off without realizing he or she is at risk.
If a driver has to steer suddenly to avoid a collision or hit the brakes, drowsiness will slow down these reactions to a dangerous point. It makes it more difficult to pay attention to the road, as the driver is focusing energy on staying awake. Commercial drivers need to be aware of the risks of drowsy driving and learn how to prevent this tragic mistake.
Avoid Fatigue as a Truck Driver
To avoid drowsy driving, never put a delivery deadline ahead of your personal wellbeing. If you feel tired, can’t stop yawning, can’t remember the last few miles you drove, or are drifting from your lane, pull over and sleep. Adhere to industry-standard resting guidelines at all times. Don’t replace sleep with caffeine or energy drinks. The only thing that can effectively wake you up is a good night’s rest.