Articles for Non-Lawyers

How to Avoid Fatigued Driving

How to Avoid Fatigued Driving by Patricia Santucci

What is the Best Way to Avoid a Fatigued Driving Crash?

There are an alarming number of people who are out on the roads, driving while fatigued. Are you one of them? Although this is not a new issue, fatigued driving has only recently been recognized as a significant problem by law enforcement. In fact, this is such an important issue that the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) recently prepared a Guidebook for the police of Ontario, which was released in 2009.

Driving Drowsy is a Serious Problem

According to the TIRF Guidebook, drowsy driving is a serious problem on Ontario roadways. The guide outlines research by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, which shows that 26% of all fatal and injury crashes are estimated to be related to fatigued driving. It also notes that as many as 167,000 Ontario drivers may have been involved in at least one crash due to fatigued or drowsy driving in 2006.

A public opinion poll done by the TIRF revealed that nearly 60% of Ontario drivers (5 million people), admitted that they have driven fatigued at least sometimes. Well over a million Ontario drivers (14.5%) also admit that they have fallen asleep or nodded off while driving at least once in the past year. A police poll suggests that police officers estimate the fatigued driving problem to be somewhat larger.

Who is Most Likely to Drive while Fatigued?

According to the research, there are a number of trends. For instance, young males are more likely to drive late at night and to be sleep deprived. Persons with sleep disorders are more likely to suffer from acute and/or chronic sleep deprivation. Drivers under the sedating influence of alcohol and drivers under the influence of certain medications with side effects known to enhance drowsiness are also on the list. And not surprisingly, night or rotating shift workers are more likely to get inadequate sleep or lack quality sleep. Commercial vehicle operators often spend long hours driving, and are likely to experience fatigue while driving.

Common Tactics Used to Stay Awake while Driving Not Effective

The Guidebook states that most tactics employed by people to stay awake while driving are NOT effective in reducing fatigue or preventing fatigued driving crashes: opening windows/turning on the air conditioning, talking to passengers, stopping to eat or exercise, changing radio station, drinking caffeine or taking caffeine pills, eating or drinking something, moving around, talking on a cell phone, or taking a stimulant.

The Guide suggests that stopping to nap or sleep is the most effective tactic to overcome fatigue or drowsiness. Therefore, the best way to avoid a fatigued driving crash is to rest.

Tips to Avoid Falling Asleep at the Wheel

The Ontario Ministry of Transportation offers these tips to help you avoid falling asleep at the wheel:

  1. Get adequate and quality sleep before a trip

  2. Avoid alcoholic beverages and heavy foods

  3. Beware of medications that can impair your driving ability

  4. Limit long distance driving — stop at least every two hours — and rest

  5. Stop at a safe place and take a nap. Wait at least 10 minutes after waking up to see how alert you are. If you don’t feel any more alert, don’t drive. Find a place to sleep for an hour or for the night

  6. If possible, drive with a companion and switch driving when necessary. Talk with passengers but not to the point of distraction

  7. Keep the temperature cool in your vehicle. Keep your eyes moving and check your mirrors often.

  8. Avoid caffeine-type drinks like coffee or cola. They provide a short-term boost, however, if you are seriously sleep deprived, no amount of caffeine will help. It’s best to stay off the road.

  9. If possible, avoid driving during the peak drowsy times — from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., and from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.

  10. See your doctor if you are prone to constant sleepiness. Recognize the signs, know the dangers, and reduce your risks of driving when drowsy.

For more information

If you would like to look at the TIRF Guidebook, or the Ministry of Transportation information on fatigued driving, here are the links:

http://www.mto.gov.on.ca/english/safety/topics/drowsy.shtml
http://www.tirf.ca/publications/PDF_publications/2009_Facts_Fatigue_Driving_Ontario_Police_Guidebook.pdf

Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer

If you or someone you know has been involved in a collision which involves a fatigued or drowsy driver, it is important to find an experienced personal injury lawyer to advise you of your rights. At Santucci Law, we have experience fighting insurance companies to get our clients the compensation they deserve. If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, call Santucci Law for a free consultation.

About the Author Patricia Santucci

Patricia Santucci is a personal injury lawyer born and raised in Hamilton, Ontario. She holds several degrees having attended King’s College at the University of Western Ontario, McMaster University, earned a Master of Arts degree at the University of Windsor and an Ontario Teaching Degree from Teacher’s College as well as her Ontario Teaching Certificate. After graduating from the University of Alberta law school she was called to the bar in 2000. You can find Patricia on and LinkedIn or directly through this website