Although most contractors consider the workday over once they put their tools away and hop back in the truck, the workday doesn’t really conclude until you and your coworkers are all home safely. Because long and difficult hours are common for most commercial truck drivers, you have probably had to drive when you are drowsy – many drivers even treat it as a normal part of doing business.
However, this type of dangerous thinking can have tragic consequences, as few people understand the level of danger associated with drowsy driving.
Dangers and Risks of Drowsy Driving
Driving while tired or fatigued is much more dangerous than doing so when you are well rested. Drowsy drivers not only suffer from slower reflexes and have trouble concentrating on the road, they tend to make poor decisions as well.
As you may expect, these factors often lead to accidents. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drowsy drivers cause an average of 83,000 traffic accidents each year.
How to Stay Safe and Awake
The difference between being awake and being asleep is profound, and yet you can cross this threshold with alarming rapidity. Accordingly, you must treat signs of fatigue with urgency. Dr. William Dement, “At one moment we are awake, and can see and hear. A fraction of a second later we are asleep, and we are completely blind and completely deaf.” Accordingly, it is imperative that you pull over and get some rest if you start feeling drowsy.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that drivers should be aware of the following signs of drowsiness:
- Yawning or blinking frequently
- Drifting out of your lane
- Failure to recall the last several miles
- Missing your highway exit
It Could Happen to You
Many people are under the mistaken impression that experience will keep them from accidentally falling asleep at the wheel, but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, some of the most experienced drivers on the road – commercial truck drivers – routinely experience accidents caused by drowsy driving. Take, for example, the 76-year-old truck driver who fell asleep at the wheel while driving along the Will Rogers Turnpike, in Oklahoma. He slammed into a cluster of cars, ultimately killing 10 people in the accident.
To help avoid such incidents, federal regulations require that truck drivers rest for at least 34 hours after logging 70 hours of driving time in any given week. Furthermore, drivers are prohibited from driving for more than 11 hours each day, and they must take a 30-minute break at some point each day.