Drowsy Driving Update 2014

National Sleep Foundation’s Drowsy Driving Prevention Week runs November 2-9, 2014. Highlighting the need for drivers and safety teams to focus on drowsy driving, the AAA AAFTS Drowsy DrivingFoundation for Traffic Safety has issued a new research report which states that 21% (one in five) fatal crashes involved driver fatigue. Further, the report summary indicates that:

  • 6% of all crashes in which a vehicle was towed from the scene,
  • 7% of crashes in which a person received treatment for injuries sustained in the crash,
  • 13% of crashes in which a person was hospitalized, and
  • 21% of crashes in which a person was killed involved a drowsy driver.

How did we miss the scope of these crashes?  AAAFTS suggests that National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) statistics “are widely regarded as substantial underestimates of the true magnitude of the problem.”  Why?

The statistics reported by the NHTSA are based on data compiled from reports completed by police officers investigating the scenes of motor vehicle crashes. However, unlike impairment by alcohol, impairment by sleepiness, drowsiness, or fatigue does not leave behind physical evidence, and it may be difficult or impossible for the police to ascertain in the event that a driver is reluctant to
admit to the police that he or she had fallen asleep, if the driver does not realize or remember that his or her performance was impaired due to fatigue, or if the driver is
incapacitated or deceased and thus unable to convey information regarding his level of alertness prior to the crash. This inherent limitation is further compounded by the design of the forms that police officers complete when investigating crashes, which in many cases obfuscate the distinction between whether a driver was known not to have been asleep or fatigued versus whether a driver’s level of alertness or fatigue was unknown.

Based on these concerns, many experts have concluded that the NHTSA data was merely indicating the tip of a large iceberg of hidden or mis-coded results.  Compounding this opinion were results from other studies, including naturalistic (camera in cabin, continuously recording) studies showing a much higher rate of drowsy driving related events.

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Of course, this study makes several assumptions and may not present a perfect picture of drowsy driving in the USA.  However, it is reasonable to assertively promote tactics to avoid drowsy driving situations based on the following:

  • drivers are unable to prevent micronapping from occuring – the fatigued body will overpower their mind’s alertness
  • Poor diet, lack of exercise, frequently interrupted sleep periods, lack of consistent sleep cycles all contribute to weak health and drowsiness.
  • Many “home remedies” for drowsy driving may work for a few minutes, but can’t be relied upon for a real solution — many drivers who’ve turned on the air conditioning or turned up the radio still had crashes happen.

Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is quoted as saying;

Despite the fact that 95 percent of Americans deem it ‘unacceptable’ to drive when they are so tired that they have a hard time keeping their eyes open, more than 28 percent admit to doing so in the last month,”…“Like other impairments, driving while drowsy is not without risk.”

AAA Oregon/Idaho Public Affairs Director Marie Dodds sums it up nicely;

Unfortunately many drivers underestimate the risk of driving while tired, and overestimate their ability to deal with it.

Find other articles on drowsy driving at https://safetyismygoal.wordpress.com/?s=drowsy%20driving

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Learning from Crash Events

There’s a lot being reported about the crash on the New Jersey Turnpike which involved a Tractor Trailer and a chauffeured limousine-van transporting comedian Tracy Morgan. Tragically, several people were injured and one passenger died.

Some of the clear facts include:

  • The tractor trailer was traveling above the posted (construction zone) limit of 45 MPH.
  • The event occurred during the early morning hours when visibility is reduced and all drivers are more prone to drowsiness.
  • The tractor trailer operator had been on duty for most of his allotted-by-regulation time (suggesting fatigue as a possible contributing factor).

According to other reports (Star Ledger, et.al.):

  • The tractor trailer “…was equipped with sophisticated collision-avoidance systems that included forward-looking radar with interactive cruise control — all designed to begin automatically braking the big truck when it sensed traffic slowing down. It was programmed to notify the driver of any vehicles stopped ahead in the roadway. There was an on-board computer, blind spot sensors, and electronic controls limiting its top speed to 65 miles per hour.”
  • ATA executive vice president David Osiecki was quoted as saying that speeding is “the highest cause and contributing factor” in most crashes.  Further, “We want to return to a national maximum speed limit. Some states are at 80. Some at 75. That’s the biggest safety problem on the highways.”

So what can we conclude — how do we learn from this to prevent similar tragedies in the future?  The National Transportation Safety Board and the NJ State Police are actively investigating to follow up on questions like:

  • Did the on-board collision warning and avoidance system fail to function correctly?
  • While the tractor trailer driver was within his regulated allotment of duty/driving hours, should the regulations be modified further?
  • Was a lack of enforcement of speed limits in a construction zone play some role in creating a culture of speeding on that highway?
  • Were seatbelts in the limo adequate to prevent further/greater injuries or could their design be improved, too?

All road deaths and injury producing crashes are tragic, and we need to learn from each occurrence to determine ways to prevent future events.

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Electronic Logs for HOS Reporting

Geotab HOSLast month, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s proposed electronic log mandate took another key step forward towards becoming part of the regulations.  The proposal still faces it’s comment period and potential legal challenges before it would become finalized.

Still, this 256-page proposal marks a big change in one of trucking’s older “traditions” — moving from paper log books with their “flexibility” to smudge the lines to electronic devices that demand absolutes from drivers.

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A recent article published at truckinginfo.com (click HERE) summarizes the current proposal’s status:

The agency will take comments on the proposal until about mid-May. After it reviews the comments and publishes a final rule, perhaps later this year, carriers will have two years to comply. Carriers that already have recording devices that meet current specifications would have an additional two years to bring their devices into compliance with the new specifications.

The rule will apply to drivers who have to prepare paper logs. Drivers who don’t have to prepare logs may use the electronic devices but won’t have to. Drivers who use timecards will not have to use the devices. And drivers who use logs intermittently can stick with paper logs unless they use them more than eight days in 30 days.

Of course there are many technical details to be addressed:

The technical specifications spell out how ELDs should work.
The basic requirement is that the device record specific information – date, time, location, engine hours, mileage and driver, vehicle and carrier identification – and make it available to inspectors.

The driver must be identified by his full license number and the state where his license is issued.

The device has to be synchronized with the engine to record on/off status, the truck’s motion, mileage and engine hours.

The device will have to automatically record a driver’s change of duty and hourly status while the truck is moving. It also must track engine on/off, and the beginning and end of personal use or yard moves.

The agency is proposing that the devices use automatic positioning services: either the satellite-based Global Positioning System, land-based systems, or both.

Many carriers now have onboard information systems that warn the driver when he’s approaching his hourly limits, but the agency is not requiring that capability in its proposal.

The devices won’t have to print out the log, but may have that feature as an option. They will have to produce a graph grid of a driver’s daily duty status, either on a digital display unit or on a printout. This is the first time the agency has proposed using a printer, and it’s looking for comments on the costs and benefits of that approach.

If your fleet may be subject to this proposal, and you’re not sure where to start to learn about your options, costs and benefits.  SafetyFirst can help.  We work with multiple hardware providers and have found a wide range in costs for similar systems.

Depending on your fleet’s specific operations, you may want to install a more robust offering at higher cost, but for many fleets a basic, proven system is also available that increases productivity, reduces fuel costs, addresses key safety issues and handles the compliance portion in an easy to understand interface.

http://www.geotab.com/gps-fleet-management-solutions/compliance.aspx

http://www.safetyfirst.com/gps-telematics.php

TeleMatics

UPDATE: Drowsy Driving

Our recent posting about Drowsy Driving got a lot of attention.  We wanted to circle back and provide a few updates.

A federal jury awarded a $7 million judgment in the case of a fatigue (or driving while drowsy) case.  Here’s a link to the report:  http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/southcentral/2011/11/14/223977.htm

Several interesting news articles have appeared over the last week or two and we wanted to share them with you.

November 17, 2011  http://www.digitaljournal.com/pr/494110 (it starts with “For any motorist, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs or without sufficient sleep can have disastrous results. However, drowsy or intoxicated truckers and other drivers of large commercial vehicles pose a unique safety threat, as serious consequences of accidents caused by these types of vehicles are far more likely to gravely impact passengers in other autos: only about ten percent of those killed annually in truck accidents are drivers or passengers in the truck.”)

November 9, 2011 — “Driving drowsy as dangerous as driving drunk, studies showhttp://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2011/11/09/driving-drowsy-as-dangerous-as-driving-drunk-studies-show/  “I know what it feels like and looks like and so do you. So why do many surveys show that most of us have driven while drowsy and many of us do so on a regular basis? Well, for one thing, we are not a culture that takes sleep seriously.”

November 15, 2011 – “Not Enough Drivers Realize Dangers of Drowsy Driving, Insurer Says”  http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/east/2011/11/15/224095.htm “According to the National Sleep Foundation, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimates that about one in six deadly crashes involve a drowsy driver.”

November 14, 2011 – “Is the driver in the next lane falling asleep at the wheel?”  http://fredericksburg.com/News/FLS/2011/112011/11142011/664324 – “BE CAREFUL next time you’re out on the road–the driver next to you might be asleep. Or at least pretty tired. Neither, obviously, is a good thing.”

Our “Ten-Minute Training Topic” on Drowsy Driving has been one of the most popular and often downloaded topic we’ve published since 2003!  Thanks for the interest and support of our crash reduction programs.

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.