Drowsy Driving Week – November 6-12, 2011

No, it’s not the week where we want to drive drowsy — it’s to raise awareness of the extent of the issue and the need to educate drivers of what they can do to prevent driving while drowsy.

While most people have come to recognize the dangers of “drinking and driving“, “texting while driving” or “driving without the use of a seatbelt“, many still consider “driving while drowsy” to be a relatively minor safety concern. People think that they can tell when they’re about to fall asleep and can safely get home before a problem occurs. These drowsy drivers are at much greater risk to be injured in a crash than they realize.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that drowsy driving results in 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries and more than 100,000 accidents each year.

In a recent AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety (AAAFTS) survey, nearly nine out of every ten police officers reported they had stopped a driver who they believed was drunk, but turned out to be drowsy.  The AAAFTS survey also indicated that:

  • Younger drivers age 16-24 were nearly twice as likely to be involved in a drowsy driving crash as drivers age 40-59,
  • About 57 percent of drowsy driving crashes involved the driver drifting into other lanes or even off the road.
  • More than half (55%) of those drivers who reported having fallen asleep while driving in the past year said that it occurred on a high-speed divided highway.
  • More than half (59%) of those drivers who reported having fallen asleep while driving in the past year said they had been driving for less than an hour before falling asleep; only one in five reported they had been driving for three hours or longer.

Drowsy driving is operating a motor vehicle while sleepy, fatigued or “tired/exhausted”.  Sleepiness and driving is a dangerous combination. Most people are aware of the dangers of drinking and driving but don’t realize that drowsy driving can be just as fatal. Like alcohol, sleepiness slows reaction time, decreases awareness, impairs judgment and increases your risk of crashing.

The potential to fall asleep behind the wheel can’t be judged by the operator – they simply fall asleep and typically lose control of their vehicle.

This month’s Ten-Minute Training Topic covers what drivers can do to recognize the warning signs, prevent drowsy driving and improve their health/wellness in the process. 

The Ten-Minute Training Topic series is a monthly driver training package on a specific, focused issue like Drowsy Driving, Parking Lot Dangers, Improper Passing, etc.  The program includes driver handouts, manager’s supplemental reports (with relevant news stories, links to web site resources, etc.) and links to A-V presentations for the drivers.  The program materials can be used as payroll stuffers, classroom training sessions, or tailgate talks.  Drivers can review the materials from remote locations electronically.

We encourage managers to review any existing company policies that relate to the Ten-Minute Training Topic in advance of its distribution to drivers.  This provides an opportunity to make any needed enhancements, prepare for anticipated questions and check to make sure that your policy and the Ten-Minute Training Topic are in agreement.

While some companies may have developed “policies” concerning how drivers should deal with drowsy driving and “fatigue”, others may want to consider the following questions:

  • Are your drivers aware of your specific company expectations regarding driving while tired or “drowsy”?
  • Are there any specific instructions you want them to follow regarding breaks, use of rest areas or other procedures when “at-risk” of falling asleep at the wheel?
  • Are there any circumstances where the driver should not attempt to drive while tired?
  • Has your company developed or participated in any workplace wellness programs that might help address sleep disorders, diet and other contributing factors?
  • Are there pertinent regulations affecting your drivers with regard to their alertness or ability to drive safely (ie. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations; Hours of Service Rules, etc.)

This is a great time to re-acquaint them with your company’s practices and expectations regarding all aspects of driving safely at night or during extended trips where fatigue may become a safety issue.

If you’re interested in learning more about our monthly driver training package (included free in our hotline program, or available for separate purchase), please let us know.  We can even send out a sample training topic for your review as a courtesy copy. 

Our toll-free number is 1-888-603-6987 – just let us know that you’re interested in the Drowsy Driving Training Topic.

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