Do you or your employees drive for long hours at a time? Are you on the road late at night or very early in the morning? If so, you and your staff could be at risk for falling asleep while behind the wheel.
While most people are well aware of the dangers of driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, many don’t realize that drowsy driving can be just as dangerous. In fact, getting behind the wheel when sleep deprived has very similar effects on drivers’ judgment, performance and reaction times.
Another factor that makes these types of crashes even more dangerous is that they tend to occur at a higher speed than other types of crashes due to the fact that the driver is semi-unconscious or totally asleep and makes no effort to attempt to prevent the crash.
According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, drowsy driving results in as many as 100,000 police-reported vehicle crashes every year, with more than 1,500 fatalities and 71,000 injuries.
More Sobering Drowsy Driving Statistics
- A study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimated that 328,000 drowsy driving crashes occur annually.
- Commercial drivers are at a significantly higher risk for crashes caused by drowsiness. The reasons for this include the long hours on the road and the high number of miles they drive on the job.
- Shift workers who work night shifts, double shifts or swing shifts are also six times more likely to be involved in a drowsy driving crash.
- Business travelers are also at a higher risk for a drowsy driving crash, as they travel across time zones, suffer from jet lag, too little sleep, and spend many hours driving to get to their destination.
- Driving after going more than 20 hours without sleep is the equivalent of driving with a blood alcohol content of .08 percent, which is the U.S. legal limit.
- NHTSA estimates fatigue-related crashes resulting in injury or death costs society $109 billion annually, not including property damage.
Tips to Stay Alert While Driving
Ensure that you and your employees are aware of the following safety advice:
Get enough rest before long hours in the car.
When you know you have a long trip coming up, make sure to get enough sleep the night before or take a nap before you head out onto the road, if possible. Sleeping less than six hours increases your risk for falling asleep at the wheel, so plan accordingly.
Avoid driving when you feel tired.
When you notice your mind is starting to drift off, you’re feeling irritable, yawning or even drifting in your lane, it’s time to stop driving and get some much needed rest.
Schedule frequent breaks.
A good rule of thumb is to take a break every 100 miles, or every two hours, especially if you’re driving overnight or in the very early morning. Have a plan in mind about where you’ll be able to stop while you’re out on the road to stretch your legs and get some refreshments.
Travel with a passenger if possible.
We can’t always plan to drive with a companion or co-worker, but if possible, try to do just that. Having an alert passenger in the front seat with you can help watch for signs of drowsiness, and you can share the driving responsibilities, too.
Know your health.
Sometimes people actually have disorders like sleep apnea that cause them to become sleepy at inconvenient times. This can cause issues in your daily waking life and especially behind the wheel. If you suspect that you may have a sleep disorder, consult your doctor.
Don’t rely on stimulants.
Don’t think you can power through tiredness by drinking a bunch of coffee. Caffeine and stimulants won’t replace actual rest.
Be sure to communicate to your employees that you do not want them to drive when they are too tired to concentrate on the road. They may feel pressured to reach destinations and deadlines, but stress that their safety comes first.
Additionally, you can keep your employees safe on the road by investing in a corporate driver training program with DriveTeam. They’ll learn the skills they need to reduce accidents caused by a variety of factors and gain more confidence on the road. Contact us for more information.