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Tips for Preventing Driver Fatigue

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) defines fatigue as “mental or physical exertion that impairs performance.” This terse description fails to capture the life-altering consequences of driver fatigue when a car or truck crash causes catastrophic injuries or claims lives – consequences that experienced Denver truck accident attorneys know all too well.

Driver fatigue causes hundreds of auto accidents on U.S. roads every year.  According to the FMCSA, approximately 13 percent of all commercial motor vehicle accidents are the result of driver fatigue.

Fatigue is a particular concern in the trucking and bus industries, where professional drivers may be under pressure from employers or clients to get the job done, even when they need rest badly.  Although most professional drivers take safety seriously, one of the particular dangers of fatigue is that it impairs judgment.  Therefore, a driver may have difficultly deciding whether or not to keep driving as fatigue alters the ability to make sound decisions. When the wrong decision is made, the consequences may be severe.

Whether you drive as part of your job or only use your vehicle to commute and run family errands, it’s important never to get behind the wheel if you’re fatigued. Your Denver truck accident attorneys share some tips for preventing driver fatigue and addressing the signs:

  • Get enough sleep.  Sleep is the number-one key to preventing fatigue behind the wheel. Most studies have found that adults need seven to nine hours of sleep per night, while teens need 10 to 12 hours. If you can’t get sufficient sleep before a long trip, take naps in a safe place during a road trip if you feel sleepy.  For best results, naps should last at least 20 minutes, and you should give yourself at least 15 minutes after a nap to fully awaken before hitting the road again.
  • Sleep at the best times.  In addition to getting enough sleep, it is important to sleep at the best times of day for maximum rest.  Studies by the FMCSA have found that drowsiness is linked more to time of day than to hours on task; even drivers who feel “used” to driving between midnight and 5 a.m. and 2 to 4 p.m. demonstrated significantly lower reaction times and alertness during these times of day when compared to other times of day in studies. When you can, sleep between midnight and 5 a.m. before you hit the road for a long trip.
  • Know the signs of fatigue.  Frequent yawning, heavy eyes, and blurred vision are all signs of drowsiness that signal a significant increase in the risk of an accident. Being awake for 18 hours straight produces impairments in timing, coordination, and judgment comparable to having a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent in most studies. “Alertness tricks” like caffeine, cold air, or blasting the radio do little to combat fatigue – the best response is to stop driving and rest. 

If you’ve been injured in a fatigue-related driving accident, don’t wait: call the experienced Denver truck accident attorneys at Levine Law to learn more about your legal rights and options.

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