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Asleep at the wheel? Not if you know the signs

Aug. 2, 2012
Learn the signs that you may be fatigued before you drive and how to better manage your sleep patterns so you arrive at your destination alive.
If you are a driver, it’s important to be aware of driver fatigue. If you are a fleet manager, you need to be aware of driver fatigue, too. But while many people talk about it, it can be difficult for a driver to say to his manager, “sorry, but I can’t drive right now because I’m just too tired.” Customers don’t want to hear that their product did not arrive because a driver was tired, and managers can’t possibly direct an effective operation when they don’t know which drivers are going to be available or when they will be available.

An estimated 16.5% of all fatal motor vehicle crashes in the U.S. from 1999-2008 involved a fatigued driver, according to a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. That same study referenced a 2010 telephone survey of U.S. drivers and found that 41% admitted to “fall(ing) asleep or nod(ing) off” while driving at some point in their lives; 11% within the past year and 3.9% in the past month.

The study noted that more than 25% of drivers admitted to driving in the past month while they were “so sleepy that [they] had a hard time keeping [their] eyes open.”

SAFE-T Part 1:

But freight needs to move nonetheless. Herein lies the problem – how to manage fatigue. Clearly this is an issue that needs to be addressed by fleets of all sizes.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) is offering a free online presentation for truckers that identifies the common signs of fatigue, possible causes and effects, and ways to manage it without jeopardizing your career or the lives of others on the road.

The program, SAFE-T: Sleep, Alertness and Fatigue Education for Truckers, is available at www.aasmnet.org/safet.

The program, available in two separate videos, covers 23 minutes in all. It is a narrated slide presentation that explores the causes of driver fatigue, such as working outside of a typical nine-to-five schedule or working unpredictable schedules. The presentation also discusses good sleep strategies for the road or at home to help manage fatigue. Strategies such as planning sleep breaks and the timing of sleep breaks, managing off-hour responsibilities, and improving sleep environments are among the tips given.

SAFE-T Part 2:

“It is vital that commercial operators understand fatigue and risks of driving while tired,” said Sam Fleishman, MD, AASM president. “Drivers need to be alert to operate their vehicles safely. Reduced alertness levels not only put their lives at risk but also jeopardize the safety of others on the road.”

The AASM is a professional membership society that sets standards and promotes excellence in sleep medicine health care, education and research. To read more about sleep and sleep disorders, visit the AASM “Your Sleep” website at http://www.sleepcentral.org.

And here’s a checklist, courtesy of the National Sleep Foundation, that you can follow to learn if you may be, or are at risk, of driving fatigued.

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