Do you drive drowsy?
Another article written by Scott Marshall, as seen in the July issue of The Driver magazine.
We all work hard for what we have in life and that’s a good thing. Sometimes we also play hard too. In my case, my kids play hard. Each of my four kids all have activities to go to and taking them to their activities is on top of my more than 45 hours a week that I work. They play hockey and basketball in the winter, they all play baseball during the summer, plus we go camping from time to time. Just the thought of these activities makes me tired again. Being tired, or suffering from fatigue while driving, is a very dangerous action that many people ignore. Have you ever been driving and nodded off for just a couple of seconds? Did it alarm you? It should have and I hope you did something about it.
Believe it or not, a form of impairment is fatigue. A standard dictionary definition of impairment states: “to impair – to make worse by lessening strength, value, quantity and quality; to damage”. It’s not a legal impairment, but it happens more often than people think and it’s equally as dangerous. A crash involving someone who has fallen asleep behind the wheel would probably turn into a charge of dangerous driving or careless driving. A reality check is needed here. Take the time to rest before continuing along your journey. Plan your route. Perhaps leaving early in the morning is better than leaving late at night the evening before.
We need to recognize the early signs of fatigue while driving before it’s too late. If you are yawning constantly, have heavy eyelids, blurred vision, wandering in your lane and especially if your head begins to nod, pull over and take a break! Don’t fight it. When we’re tired our brain stops working as it should. We begin to make poor decisions, react later than we need to and our judgment is also dangerously impaired.
Having enough rest is always the answer to being a tired driver. Your body and mind need to be sharp to handle today’s variety of traffic conditions on our busy roads. A sharp mind will always help you think clearly. If you’re driving during your vacation, take a break and get out of your vehicle every couple of hours. Put this break in your travel plans. Maybe take a nap if you have the chance to. Better yet, switch drivers from time to time so the more rested driver can share some of the driving with you.
According to researchers in both Canada and the United States, a driver who has been awake for 18 hours or more will perform at the same level as someone who has a blood-alcohol level of .08%; which is the legal alcohol level of drivers 22 years of age and older in Ontario. The majority of drivers (58.6%) surveyed by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) admitted that they occasionally drive while fatigued or drowsy. Also, 14.5% of those surveyed admitted that they had fallen asleep or nodded off while driving during the past year. Nearly 2% were also involved in a fatigue related crash during the past year.
Those surveyed were also asked what they can do if they feel tired or fatigued while driving. The least common answer they provided was for them to take a rest. Common answers were opening a window and turning up the radio; which don’t seem to work as much as many people believe they do. They help for the first little while, but ultimately won’t keep you alert for long.
Its better the stop the drowsy driving before it really takes hold of you. Some suggestions provided by the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO) to avoid falling asleep at the wheel would include:
■ Get proper rest before starting your trip
■ Limit your driving time to 2 hours between breaks
■ Share the driving so you can take a nap in the passenger seat
■ Avoid caffeine as they provide short-term relief
■ Beware of medications that can impair your driving ability
■ Avoid heavy meals just before driving
■ Keep the temperature cool inside the vehicle
■ Move your eyes every 2 seconds to keep your brain alert
■ Avoid peak drowsy times of 2 pm to 5 pm and 10 pm to 6 am
When I’m teaching a class of novice drivers at Young Drivers of Canada I often ask them if they know someone who has driven while impaired by alcohol or drugs. Hands rarely go up after this question is asked, but when I ask if they know someone who has nodded off while driving; normally more than half the students in my class raise their hands. Why is this so common and why do most drivers ignore it? Wake up people!
Since we’re approaching the time of year when most of us drive more often, take the time to rest before driving and pay attention to the signs of fatigue before its too late.