Drowsy driving is responsible for 328,000 crashes every year in the U.S., resulting in 6,400 deaths and 109,000 injuries.
Indeed, drowsy driving is so dangerous that, according to the National Sleep Foundation, over 1 in 6 fatal accidents on U.S. roads is directly caused by it. The same study found that 10 to 20% of bus or truck crashes happen due to a fatigued driver.
Obviously, this is a huge concern both for employee and public health, and for your fleet company’s bottom line.
Why Do Drivers Get Drowsy?
The first obvious cause of drowsy driving is lack of sleep. A U.S. study found that only 21% of Americans get enough sleep.
Though each person is unique, other factors influence drowsy driving as well, including:
• How long the driver has been driving, working, and awake
• The quality and quantity of the employee’s sleep
• The time of the day
• The driver’s mental and physical state, such as body temperature, age, or health conditions (e.g. a sleeping or stress disorder)
• The driver’s driving experience
• Types of food and amount of caffeine consumed
How Can You Identify a Drowsy Driver?
A proactive step any fleet can take to prevent drowsy driving is by looking out for indicators or pointers that tell you your employee is sleepy.
Indicators of a drowsy driver can include:
• Mental signals of extreme exhaustion: for example, the inability to make decisions promptly, irritability, low concentration, and motivation
• Complaints about being overworked or tired
• Physical signals of lack of sleep such as slow reaction time, heavy eyelids, yawning, bloodshot eyes
How to Stop Drowsy Driving in Your Fleet
Employees and employers alike share the responsibility of stopping drowsy driving in a fleet to decrease the possibility of crashes and injuries.
For instance, employees are expected to inform their employer if they aren’t fit to drive for any reason. They should also be sure to get an adequate amount of sleep and comply with scheduled breaks.
Although employers and fleet managers can’t easily monitor their fleet drivers’ sleeping habits, there are some steps you can take to reduce the risks of drowsy driving in your fleet:
1. Encourage Free Communication in Your Fleet
Though it may seem too simple of a solution, a proactive step in combating drowsy driving is creating a work environment in your fleet that encourages open communication. This enables drivers to communicate freely to fleet managers whenever they’re unable to drive due to sleep deprivation.
2. Schedule Work Shifts Properly
You should schedule work shifts properly and consistently. When you can’t adequately schedule shifts, inform your employees in advance so they can adjust their routines, which includes sleeping hours.
The tolerance level of drivers regarding schedule change varies, so ensure you’re flexible enough.
Some drivers may be more productive and alert in the afternoon to the evening, while others are more awake in the morning. Flexibility allows you to take advantage of your drivers’ strengths to prevent drowsy driving and ensure fewer crashes/injuries.
3. Take Advantage of Electronic Logging Devices
Electronic Logging Devices help regulate the time commercial drivers spend driving in accordance with the hours of service rule, which limits driver drive time to control fatigued driving. Electronic Logging Devices record driver status and hours and transmit it to their employer.
4. Request Fit-for-Duty Tests
These tests are used to test if a driver is mentally and physically fit enough to adequately perform their job. You can request the test from drivers who show reasonable signs of sleep deprivation at a level where it becomes questionable whether the driver can safely drive.
5. Use a Lane-tracking Device
A lane-tracking device is a tool that sounds an alarm when a driver changes lanes without using turn signals. Such behavior reveals a very strong possibility of drowsy driving. You can use this tool to quickly identify such behavior and communicate with the driver to ensure they immediately bring the vehicle to a halt.
6. Implementing Quick Fixes
The methods listed below are short-term fixes to combat drowsy driving and will not handle the problem long term. Here are some quick fixes you can implement:
• Request drivers to take naps if they show signs of drowsiness
• Reduce the vehicle temperature
• Increase light exposure
• Schedule breaks every 100 miles
• Boost circulation by changing hands frequently when driving
• Monitor the type of music played in the vehicle (soft tunes vs. upbeat tunes)
• Drivers must avoid “death grips” on steering wheels
The dangers of drowsy driving are many. Fleet companies need to know how to identify the risks for their drivers and implement a strategy to stop it from happening. By encouraging open communication, carefully scheduling driver shifts, using ELDs and lane tracking devices, and performing fit-for-duty tests when needed, you can dramatically reduce the risk that drowsy driving will endanger your drivers, the public, and your bottom line.
To learn more about how BigRoad's solution can help you identify and prevent drowsy driving request our BigRoad demo. If you have additional questions about how BigRoad can help make your fleet safer and more efficient contact us here.