Driving while drowsy poses a serious hazard on the road. It occurs when drivers are too tired to remain completely alert. As a result, drivers may experience slowed reaction times, reduced judgment, and impaired thinking. In the worst cases, drivers may fall completely asleep. The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that drowsy driving is responsible for at least 100,000 motor-vehicle crashes and more than 1,500 deaths per year. Aside from the toll this takes on human lives, the financial cost is staggering as well. It has become an area of serious concern for fleets across all industries.
Some Fact About Drowsy Driving
- Accidents related to driving while drowsy are more likely to occur either late at night or very early in the morning.
- Severe driving accidents where sleepiness was a factor are most likely to occur while also speeding.
- In many cases, drivers who are drowsy make no efforts to avoid an accident, and may veer off the road completely.
- Drivers who work during night shifts or rotating shifts are more at risk for a drowsy driving incident.
- Medication side effects can be responsible for drowsy driving.
- Drivers with untreated sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, are more likely to drive drowsy.
The Warning Signs of Drowsy Driving
Fortunately, there are outward signs that fatigue has started to creep in and may be putting drivers at risk. Many of these signs are predictable and recognizable, and should signal to drivers that it is time to take a rest. Recognizing signs of drowsy driving and responding to them can literally save lives. Here are the signs to look out for:
- Frequent yawning or blinking
- Itching or burning eyes
- Difficulty driving in a straight line or keeping the vehicle within its lane
- Difficulty sitting in one position and feeling the need to constantly shift in the driver’s seat
- Trouble remembering the last few miles driven
- Missing road signs or exits
When driving while drowsy, another dangerous phenomenon that occurs is called “microsleep.” This happens when a drowsy driver lapses into sleep for four or five seconds, then abruptly awakens. During that short period of sleep, a driver could potentially travel upwards of 100 yards without having any awareness at all.
How to Prevent Driving Drowsy
1. Get Enough Sleep
That sounds obvious and simple; however, it is surprising how many people do not get enough sleep. Most adults should get between seven to nine hours of sleep per day. And, while it is true that you may feel like you require less sleep as you get older, the recommended amount of sleep remains at seven to nine hours per day.
2. Avoid Alcohol and Certain Medications If You Plan to Drive
Obviously, drinking excessive alcohol and driving don’t mix. However, people don’t necessarily realize that even drinking legal amounts of alcohol can cause dangerous drowsiness. The same is also true for prescription and over-the-counter medications. Something as simple as an allergy tablet can cause significant drowsiness. Any medication that lists drowsiness as a side effect should be approached with caution.
3. Schedule Longer Drives Around Peak Drowsiness Times
When at all possible, try to schedule driving hours around those that have the highest risk. By avoiding driving between midnight and 6 a.m., you will avoid the hours when most drowsiness-related accidents occur.
Tools to Prevent Falling Asleep While Driving
Aside from understanding the warning signs of drowsiness and interventions to prevent drowsiness while driving, current telematics solutions offer some high-tech tools to prevent falling asleep at the wheel. Driver safety equipment and applications, which focus on general safe driving practices, help maintain safety across the fleet.
Azuga, the leader in fleet management systems, has integrated a system for recognizing drowsiness and providing warnings to the fleet driver in real-time. The addition of Fatigue Detection Systems provides another safety and protection level integrated into the current telematics system as well.
By utilizing fleet tracking and dashcams, telematics systems can detect behaviors such as changes in driver posture, lane drifting, and yawning. The system can then deliver a warning to the driver and initiate other appropriate actions.
Using the Fatigue Detection System along with preventative measures can help reduce the risk of accident and injury from driving while drowsy and falling asleep at the wheel. Contact Azuga today for more information on how their telematics system can improve your fleet’s safety.