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7 tips to prevent driver fatigue and drowsy-driving accidents

When you think about dangers that can cause truck accidents, you may not immediately think of sleepiness. But the truth is that driver fatigue is a very real risk-factor for accidents. Fatigue is extreme exhaustion due to mental or physical work. Not getting enough sleep, working long hours, and stress (physical or mental) can cause fatigue. For truck drivers, fatigue is highly dangerous because of the potential for a crash. We’ve got some tips to help you avoid drowsy driving – and save money on your truck insurance by avoiding accidents that could increase your rates.

1. Log plenty of hours of sleep.

According to the FMCSA, being awake for 18 hours straight is equal to having a blood-alcohol level of .08 (which means that you’re legally intoxicated.) So, that puts you at the same level of risk for a crash as being legally intoxicated. It’s important to get enough sleep so that your body is well-rested and your mind is alert. Fatigue can seriously hurt your reaction time, which raises the chances of having an accident. Most adults need about 7-8 hours of sleep per night to be fully rested.

2. Understand when your body is naturally tired.

The body has a natural sleep cycle called the circadian rhythm. That means that there are times of day that we become super tired, usually between 12 am to 6 am and 2 to 4 pm. Going back to the first point, it’s important to get enough sleep because those sleepy spells may be stronger if you haven’t gotten enough rest, and that can make the driver’s reaction time worse.

People may also be more tired or drowsy immediately after waking up, so it’s a good idea to wait a while after waking up before hitting the road. The sleepiness-after-waking struggle is called sleep inertia (which exists so that we can go back to sleep if we wake during the night.) Sleep inertia can impede a person’s reaction time, short-term memory, cognitive ability, and capability of staying awake.

3. Know the signs of drowsiness.

Realizing that you’re fatigued allows you to take steps to wake up. Signs of drowsiness include repeated yawning, blurry vision, and heavy eyelids. If you start to feel fatigued, it’s time to pull over and take a break.

4. Have a nap.

If you’re not doing so great as far as staying awake, it may be naptime. Naps should be about 45 minutes. After a nap, a truck driver should give themselves at least 15 minutes to wake up again before beginning to drive again. Keep in mind that it’s best to nap before you’re completely exhausted with the intent of fending off fatigue.

5. Understand that coffee, the radio, and rolling down the windows are not enough to stay awake.

Many common tricks for staying awake behind the wheel are not as effective as one might hope. Caffeine can take a while to take effect, and it may not work as well if you drink a lot of caffeinated beverages. Blasting the radio and rolling down the windows to get fresh air are only momentary aids, and they’re not powerful enough to keep yourself awake enough to drive.

6. Eat healthily.

Eating well can help you feel more energized and help you sleep well at night. It’s also important not to skip meals, so try to eat at regular times. Going to sleep on an empty stomach or a full stomach can cause a poor night’s sleep, so you may want to try earing a light dinner and then having a small snack before bed. Being well-rested can help you avoid having a poor reaction time and attention span, which in turn can help you avoid being involved in an accident when it’s time to get behind the wheel of your truck in the morning.

7. Be aware that certain medications can cause drowsiness.

Try to avoid taking medication that could make you tired. You can check the label of the medication to see if it warns about drowsiness or operating a vehicle or machinery while taking it. Be sure that you know how it will affect you. Cold medication, sleeping pills, and allergy medicines can all cause tiredness.

Driver fatigue is something that many truck drivers struggle with, and it’s dangerous because drowsiness slows your reaction time, which increases your chance of being involved in an accident. Sleep is precious – make sure that you’re getting plenty of rest so that you’re feeling your best when you drive your truck.

Do you want to save money on your truck insurance? Our transportation insurance agents are pros at helping trucking businesses just like yours shop for their insurance and find the best rate for their coverage. We’ve worked with lots of trucking operations, so we understand the risks you face and the coverages you need to protect your business from them. To get truck insurance quotes, all you have to do is fill out our online form or give us a call.