Nodding Off: Fighting driver fatigue

Nodding Off: Fighting driver fatigue

For truckers and commercial drivers who often spend long hours on the road, driving drowsy is a common problem and serious hazard.

In fact, 13 percent of truck accidents are linked to driver fatigue.

Several conditions cause driving drowsy. Here’s a look at what’s behind truck driver fatigue, according to Sleep Help, an independently owned sleep-health education site.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a potentially dangerous sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. People diagnosed with this condition often don’t sleep well or through the night, making them tired during the day and susceptible to nodding off anytime anywhere.

Sleeping Pills

Long periods behind the wheel often result in abnormal sleeping patterns, forcing drivers to sleep at unusual times of the day. Many drivers take sleeping aids, including prescription medication, to get their Zzz’s.

“However, sleeping pills can leave you with a significant amount of sleep inertia, or the desire to sleep even after you’ve been awake for a while. If you have to wake up before the pill wears off, they can leave you feeling even more tired than you were before you rested,” according to Sleep Help’s study of the driving drowsy.

Drug Use

Many truckers often resort to using illegal drugs like marijuana, amphetamines, and cocaine to stay awake. Stimulants like these can cause a driver to feel good even when their body needs rest.

Truck Sleeping Berths

Truck drivers will use sleeping berths in their vehicle so they can pull over and take a nap. Studies show that many truck accidents due to drowsy driving occur within an hour of waking up and getting behind the wheel. Truck drivers often lean too heavily on sleeping berths as a crutch when they should be monitoring their awareness and alertness after waking up.

Tips for Avoiding Driver Fatigue

  1. Get enough sleep before getting behind the wheel.
  2. Take a nap when you’re tired.
  3. Don’t drive at night.
  4. Avoid medications that make you sleepy.
  5. Watch what you eat.
  6. Know the warning signs of drowsy driving.
  7. Invest in an alert system that detects when you’re tired.

Learn more about driver fatigue at SleepHelp.org.