If you travel frequently on I-65 or I-22 in the vicinity of Jasper and Birmingham, then you know this part of the state sees a lot of traffic from large commercial trucks. In fact, because of the size and weight of their vehicles, truck drivers are legally held to a higher standard of safety than drivers of smaller vehicles.
Still, many truck accidents result from driver errors, and in some cases, serious mistakes are made due to truck driver fatigue.
Studies in recent years have brought to light many facts about driver fatigue. For example, one such study refers to sleep inertia, which makes driving within the first hour after waking up very dangerous. Sleep inertia impairs a person's vigilance, short-term memory, reaction time, cognitive functioning and the ability to resist going back to sleep.
Truck drivers who sleep in the berth in your truck may be at particular risk if they do not first get out and stretch before starting back on the road.
Tips to prevent driver fatigue
Research shows that the effect of a .08 BAC level on a driver's body is similar to staying awake for 18 continuous hours, and lack of sleep presents many of the same risks as drunk driving. Here are things that truck drivers should do to help them get to their destinations safely:
- Get enough sleep between driving shifts -- Even if you do get enough sleep, be aware that there are times when your body becomes naturally drowsy. This typically happens between midnight and 6 a.m. and again from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
- Take note of indicators of drowsiness -- The dangers and signals to look out for include blurred vision, heavy eyes and frequent yawning.
- Take a power nap -- Do not wait to be overcome by drowsiness. Pull off the road where it is safe to do so and take a power nap of between 10 and 45 minutes to prevent drowsiness. Be sure to get out and stretch and move about for approximately 15 minutes before getting back onto the road.
- Maintain healthy eating habits -- Even though it can be difficult to do while on the road, a healthy diet is vital. If you eat at irregular hours and skip meals, it can lead to food cravings and fatigue. Eating immediately before going to bed can interfere with your sleep, and so can going to sleep while hungry. A light snack before bedtime can bring restful sleep.
- Take medication with care -- Read the warnings on any medication you take. Some cause drowsiness -- particularly medicines for colds and allergies, sleeping pills, and tranquilizers. You should try to avoid driving with these in your system.
- Forget about alertness tricks -- Opening the window, lighting a cigarette, turning up the volume on the radio and drinking coffee are all tricks that will not cause lasting alertness. Caffeine takes several minutes to take effect -- minutes in which anything can happen.
The reality is that truck driver fatigue is a serious risk on Alabama highways. When driving while fatigued results in injuries to other motorists, the victims need to be aware of their options for obtaining the full and fair compensation they need and deserve.