Driver Fatigue and Road Safety

We all know we shouldn’t drive when intoxicated or impaired, but fatigued driving can also be dangerous. Actions related to intoxication or impairment tend to get the headlines, but a study done by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation found that 26% of all fatal crashes and accidents resulting in injury are related to fatigued driving.

Driving when tired or for extended durations without a break can lead to inattentiveness and slow reaction times or in some cases can lead to nodding off at the wheel while driving. Most people feel sleepy twice per day – in the afternoon and in the evening or night time. Driving at these times is riskier.

Québec’s SAAQ points out that over 20% of fatal accidents in Québec are related to driver fatigue, going on to detail the drivers most at risk:

  • Truck or heavy vehicle drivers

  • Newer drivers and drivers under the age of 30

  • Workers with long hours or erratic work schedules

  • Individuals with sleep disorders

  • Individuals who get less than 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night

Fighting fatigue

Drivers often employ several techniques to combat fatigue when driving, including lowering the temperature in the car, opening a window, drinking coffee or caffeinated beverages, and other tricks. The effects of all these techniques are temporary at best. Fatigue quickly returns.

SAAQ recommends that drivers rest before heading out on the road and plan to take breaks every two hours. If you can find a safe place, 15 to 30-minute naps can be an effective way to recharge your batteries for a short while. Never sleep or rest on the roadway shoulder.

SAAQ also offers these tips:

  • If you are traveling with another driver, alternating drivers will give you the opportunity to rest.

  • Avoid driving at times when you would normally be sleeping whenever possible.

  • Reduce your speed. Driving faster requires more information processing, increasing fatigue.

  • Dim dashboard lighting to reduce strain on your eyes.• Eat lighter meals and be sure to drink enough water.

  • Plan for breaks if part of your route is monotonous, such as highways or country roads at night.

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