How Sleep Affects Your Driving Abilities
Updated: Aug 30
After driving long hours, especially when driving at night, you are bound to get tired. Driving while tired or driving without a good night's sleep can affect your driving in a serious way.
Commercial vehicles require more concentration and precision to operate, which automatically puts truckers at higher risk for accidents even when you’re driving fully awake. Driving while tired increases that risk tenfold.
Most commercial drivers have to adhere to tight schedules and strict deadlines. Many drivers are on the road for long periods of time without any rest, which is why Hours of Service (HOS) regulations exist. Even though there are regulations in place to help stop fatigue in drivers, there are often times that the exhaustion sets in before drivers have been able to take a break.
Without ample rest you aren't fully alert and your reaction times will be slower than if you had had a good amount of rest.
What Happens When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep?
Being rested while operating a vehicle makes a huge difference to your safety and the safety of those around you. Without being fully alert you are more susceptible to accidents, whether they are caused by you or outside forces.
Driving with less than the recommended eight hours of sleep each night is equivalent to driving with an alcohol blood content level of 0.10.
How Lack of Sleep Affects Your Driving
Many people are easily distracted while driving, whether that's turning their attention to the other vehicles on the road, animals or even their phones. When you're tired, your ability to fight distraction is lowered and your focus tends to slip. Many drivers find themselves thinking about everything except the road ahead of them, which slows down their reaction time.
Commercial vehicles aren't able to stop as quickly as passenger vehicles, which is why CMV drivers need to be fully alert every time they are operating their vehicle. If someone in front of you suddenly stops, you need to be able to react quickly to avoid an accident. Sometimes all it takes is a split second to respond to avoid the accident. When you're tired, your reaction time is slowed dramatically.
Highway hypnosis is also a problem after you have been driving for long periods of time, and if you're already fatigued this intensifies.
Signs of Driver Fatigue
Here are some signs of driver fatigue you should know:
Constant yawning and eyes watering
Time slipping by faster or slower than you thought it should
Your head feels too heavy or you’re nodding off
Excessive blinking and eyes burning
Having difficulty remembering the last few miles you’ve driven
Going off the side of the road or into another lane
Daydreaming or thinking about everything except driving
When you notice or experience one or more of the signs above, it’s time to pull over and take a break. Taking a short break, even just for ten minutes, can make a huge difference in your driving abilities. Even stopping for a cup of coffee or water and stretching your legs can make a huge difference.
Driving fatigued is a citable offence under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs). If pulled over and the officer notices signs of drowsiness, your company will have a record of that violation. Make sure your drivers are getting good rest and know when it is time to pull over.
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