driver fatigue management

The Risks of Driver Fatigue and How to Avoid Them

The state of play – facts and stats about driver fatigue management 

Did you know that driver fatigue is one of the top 3 contributors to the road toll in Australia, with at least 10% of all fatal accidents being caused by drowsy driving? 

Sleep is important for every single cell in the body, and lack thereof can have some serious consequences for both drivers and other users on the road.

To help keep your fleet safe in the lead up to the holiday period, have a read of this guide detailing the risks of driver fatigue, who is most vulnerable and how you can help to reduce instances of drowsy driving.

 

The risks of driving drowsy

Driving after 17 hours of being awake is equivalent to driving with a blood-alcohol level of 0.05 per cent. More concerning than this, drivers who stay awake for 24 hours can become as dangerous as if they had a blood-alcohol level of 0.10 per cent.

In light of this, it’s no surprise that fatigued drivers demonstrate signs consistent with drinking alcohol. These signs often include things like reduced concentration, reduced reaction times and impaired judgment, all of which increase the likelihood of being involved in an accident.

 

Who is most at risk of drowsy driving?

 

People 25 years and younger

Research has demonstrated that more than half of accidents caused by drowsy driving involve drivers who are 25 years old or under.

Truck drivers and shift workers

Owing to their irregular and often long work hours, truck drivers and other professionals doing shift work are generally more likely to have a fatigue-related crash.

People suffering from Sleep Apnoea and other sleep disorders

According to multiple studies, people suffering from obstructive sleep apnoea/hypopnoea (OSAH) and central sleep apnoea have an increased risk of being involved in a motor vehicle crash.

 

What are the signs of a fatigued driver?

Some of the most common signs of drowsiness include:

  • Feeling tired
  • Blurry vision
  • Struggling to keep eyes open
  • Regular yawning
  • Bowing head
  • Difficulty focusing or concentrating
  • Not being able to remember the last few kilometres
  • Drifting, swerving or missing exits
  • Minimal blinking

 

The top 7 tips for fatigue management

To help reduce driver fatigue, we recommend encouraging the following fatigue management exercises:

Get enough sleep

It’s easy to say ‘get enough sleep’, but how much is actually enough? Each person is different; however, doctors generally recommend between 7 and 9 hours of sleep is required per night for a person to function optimally.

 

Stop in at a Driver Reviver

The Diver Reviver program is a community-run initiative aimed at encouraging drivers to take a break from long-haul trips.

Driver Reviver sites offer tea and coffee, biscuits, restrooms and other facilities you might require out on the road. Even if you’re not feeling drowsy, it’s always a good idea to take a break when you see Driver Reviver.

 

Take a nap

Did you know that taking naps are more effective than drinking coffee for reducing fatigue levels?

According to recommendations released by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, commercial drivers should take a 10-45-minute nap when feeling drowsy.

They also suggest you wait at least 15 minutes after waking up to get back behind the wheel. This helps to avoid ‘sleep inertia,’ where short term memory, vigilance, cognitive function and reaction times are impaired by recent sleep. 

 

Avoid driving late at night when possible

Drivers are 4 times more likely to have a fatal accident between the hours of 10pm and 12am, so it’s always a good idea to take a break late at night if you can.

If you must continue driving at these times, make sure you’ve had adequate sleep before getting behind the wheel and take regular breaks to keep you on the ball.

 

Share the driving

While not always possible, having the ability to share the load with another driver is a great way to ensure you’re not getting fatigued. If you’ve got a driving companion, try switching it up every 4 hours and try to have a sleep between shifts.

 

Know what medications induce drowsiness

If you require certain medications, it’s important to understand what effects they may have to you and whether they could induce drowsiness.

Many painkillers, muscle relaxants, antihistamines, antidepressants, blood pressure medications and even cold medicines can make you feel drowsy, so it’s vital that you consult your doctor if you need to these while driving.

 

Practice good ‘sleep hygiene’

  Sleep hygiene is all about setting yourself up for the best possible sleep. Things like: having a consistent bedtime, avoiding stimulants such as coffee before bedtime, minimising screen time at night and creating a relaxing sleep environment are all elements of good sleep hygiene.

Through practising sleep hygiene, you can encourage better sleep and therefore benefit from being refreshed during the hours you are awake.

 

Managing driver fatigue with DriveCam

DriveCam driver behaviour management software is designed to improve road safety for all road users. Particularly for commercial fleets and heavy vehicles, training operators to become attentive and recognise the signs of drowsiness is a really important step to achieving this goal.

Learn more about encouraging safer driving behaviours with our driver fatigue monitoring system.