Fatigue and Distraction while Driving

Over the years, more awareness has been brought to the dangers of driver fatigue and distracted driving in the trucking industry. Driver fatigue is at fault for about 100,000 reported accidents each year. Trucking fleets have been fighting the ever so growing issue of distracted driving. At the same time, fleets are working together to stop and prevent both distracted driving and driver fatigue.

According to the National Center for Statistics and Analysis, this study has found more than 10% of fatal accidents and 15% of injury-related accidents were caused because of distracted driving.

So, how do we prevent distracted driving and driver fatigue in the trucking world? Continue reading below to learn more about distracted driving and driver fatigue and how to prevent both issues.

What is Distracted Driving and Driver Fatigue?

Distracted driving is related to anything that takes away your attention from driving. This could be texting, talking on your cell phone, eating, talking to others in the vehicle, messing with the radio, or even your GPS. Anything to take your attention away from being a safe driver. While these are all distractions, the most common is texting and driving. When you send a quick text, you are removing your eyes from the road for five seconds. When traveling at a minimum of 55 mph, this is like driving with your eyes closed the whole length of a football field. Any obstruction or vehicle can come over in your lane in those five seconds.

Driver fatigue often occurs when you do not get quality sleep, or enough sleep before hitting the road. When you are tired, this can affect your driving and is almost like driving under the influence of alcohol. Instead, having good sleeping habits both on and off the road can help reduce driver fatigue.

Preventing Driver Distraction

When you are driving, distractions can occur both inside and outside your truck. These distractions can include cell phones, dispatch devices, eating, reading, or simply messing with the radio or GPS. Distractions outside your truck can include billboards, people, or buildings. However, if you have distractions in your truck, it is advised to minimize these before hitting the roadways.

To help prevent driver distraction, follow these tips below.

Avoid Outside Distractions
When driving, stay focused on the road ahead of you and avoid outside distractions unrelated to your route. When you take your eyes off the road, you cannot be aware of the other cars around you or any other obstacles that can occur.

No Texting and Driving
For any commercial vehicle driver, texting and driving is illegal. While texting may be easier to stay in contact with others, it is highly dangerous to do while driving. Texting removes your eyes and at least one hand away from focusing on your driving.

Avoid Taking on the Phone or Using a Dispatching Device
Dispatching devices allow you to stay in contact with a dispatcher along with helping you navigate your route. However, these can be dangerous while driving. This is like texting and driving because your focus is no longer on the road when using one. The same goes for any handheld cell phone or talking while on the road. Instead, if you must talk on the phone while driving, use the hands-free option.

Do Not Use Paper Maps while Driving
Having printed out directions, making notes for yourself for your route, and using maps is routine for your work line. However, reading and/or writing while you are driving is risky. When you read a map and drive, this can increase the risk of accident involvement. When needing to look up directions, or write something down, pull over. You are once again taking your eyes off the road.

Avoiding Eating and Drinking
Sometimes it feels like the only time you have a minute to eat something is when you are driving. While you may not think eating and drinking while driving is risky, it can be. You remove your eyes off the road to grab your food or drink. Or what happens when you drop something? You must remove your hands from the wheel and your eyes from the road. Remember to take breaks to grab a bite to eat.

Prevent Driver Fatigue

Truck driver fatigue is a part of the FMCSA’s CSA HOS Compliance BASIC. This means that you are not allowed to drive more than the allowed hours under the HOS regulations as a truck driver. If you drive beyond this, you are at risk of violations and driver fatigue.

So, how do you prevent driver fatigue? Follow these tips below.

Get Adequate Sleep
Drivers should not drive when the body naturally becomes tired. This can be between the hours of 12:00 a.m. – 6:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. However, this is not always possible with driving jobs. When you become drowsy, this lowers your response time and increases the risk of accident involvement. If you become too tired to drive, you should pull over somewhere safe and rest.

Eat Healthy
Eating at unusual times or skipping meals can make your body tired and cause cravings. Not going to bed on an empty stomach or right after eating a large meal is also advised. Instead, if you are hungry before bed, try a light snack. You can check out our tips for healthy eating while out on the road.

Avoid Medication that Causes Drowsiness
Review any medications you take to see if they can cause you to become drowsy or advise you not to drive or operate machinery while taking these medications. Some medicine such as muscle relaxers, narcotics, sleeping medications, and cold and allergy medications can cause you to become drowsy. If you are prescribed any of these medications, talk to your doctor before driving.

Following these tips can help you stay distraction-free and help avoid driver fatigue while out on the road. Stay safe out on the road!