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The High Risk of Drowsy Driving Amongst Commercial Truck Drivers

Guest Post from Tuck Sleep Foundation

An 80,000-pound commercial vehicle traveling at 65 miles an hour can be an imposing sight. These powerful vehicles are responsible for moving goods across the country, but the drivers at the wheel find themselves at high risk for drowsy driving. The nature of the trucking industry and a push to meet deadlines causes many commercial truck drivers to get behind the wheel when they aren’t capable of making safe driving decisions.

Dangers of Drowsy Driving

Each year, nearly 328,000 accidents involve a drowsy driver. While not all of those accidents involve a commercial vehicle, at least 13 percent of commercial vehicle accidents have drivers who suffer from fatigue. A closer look at sleep deprivation and how it affects the brain can give some insight into what’s happening to drowsy drivers.

Biologically, the body must sleep. The brain strengthens pathways, catalogs memories, and eliminates unused connections while the body rests. Without a full seven to eight hours of sleep, the adult brain cannot function at top performance. The synapses start to fire slower, which leads to:

  • Slowed response times
  • Poor decision making skills
  • Altered reasoning skills
  • Short-term memory loss

Why Truck Drivers Push Their Physical Limits

While many commercial truck drivers know and respect their physical limits, others are willing to push the boundaries. The trucking industry relies on moving a high volume of goods in a short amount of time. That has led to some companies looking for ways around rules that require drivers to have a mandatory 36-hour rest period. Others ignore recommendations that suggest drivers stay off the road between 1 am-6 am and 2 pm-4 pm when the body naturally wants to sleep.

Whether it's to keep their job or to increase their salary, semi-truck drivers put themselves at risk to meet the demands of their profession. Additionally, drivers often find themselves on the road at odd hours. These unpredictable work conditions don’t let the body follow its natural circadian rhythms that respond to natural light and a consistent sleep schedule. Even when commerical truck drivers do get to rest, they may have to sleep in the cab of their truck or a motel room where it may be difficult to fall asleep.

Better Rest Means Better Driving

The long-term solution to drowsy driving is getting better sleep. Even within the confines of a demanding driving schedule, drivers can develop habits that help them to get the sleep necessary to keep themselves and others drivers safe. Many of these habits can be used at home or on the road.

The Right Conditions

When at home, drivers can create the right conditions for good sleep. A comfortable mattress that doesn’t cause any aches or pains during the night can help drivers reach the deepest sleep level. A room kept at 60-68 degrees with dim lighting and little sound also lets the body naturally drift off to sleep.

Develop a Sleep Routine

Drivers who find themselves sleeping on the road can develop a sleep routine to help their body unwind from the day and recognize when it’s time to rest. Reading a book or listening to relaxing music after getting ready to sleep can help the body relax. When a routine is performed consistently, the body can start to shut down automatically.

Smart, Healthy Eating

Avoid stimulants within four hours of bedtime. The caffeine found in coffee, energy drinks, and soda may help keep drivers awake on the road, but it can also leave them tossing and turning in bed. Near bedtime, add in a healthy snack that promotes sleep like a banana or yogurt, which have vitamins that help the body make the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin.

For more information on accident with a drowsy semi-truck driver, a free initial consultation is with a truck accident attorney is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (281) 993-0000 today.

Tags: Drowsy Driving, Truck Driver Fatigue, Dangers of Drowsy Driving