Asleep at the Wheel - The Fatigued Trucker

  1. Approximately 100,000 police-reported crashes annually involve drowsiness/fatigue as a principal causal factor (source: The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA))
    1. Fewer than half of drowsiness/fatigue crashes are properly identified as such (Miller, 1991)
  2. At least 1,500 people are killed annually in fatigue-caused crashes (source: NHTSA)
    1. At least 71,000 people are injured in fall-asleep crashes each year (source: NHTSA).
    2. Fatigued drivers are responsible for more than $12.5 billion in monetary losses each year (source: NHTSA).
  3. Factors leading to fatigue-related crashes:
    1. Sleep-deprived or fatigued driver
    2. Driving long distances without rest breaks
    3. Driving through the night, the early afternoon, or at other times when they are normally asleep
    4. Taking medication that increases sleepiness or drinking alcohol
    5. Driving alone
    6. Driving on long, rural, boring roads
    7. Frequent driver
  4. People tend to fall asleep more on high-speed, long, boring, rural highways. New York police estimate that 30% of all fatal crashes along the New York Thruway occurred because the driver fell asleep at the wheel (source: National Sleep Foundation (NSF)).
  5. Truck drivers are especially susceptible to fatigue-related crashes.
    1. In addition to the high number of miles driven each year, many truckers may drive during the night when the body is sleepiest.
    2. Truckers may also have a high prevalence of a sleep and breathing disorder called sleep apnea.
    3. Studies suggest truck-driver fatigue may be a contributing factor in at least 30 to 40 percent of all heavy truck accidents (Source: NSF).
  6. Sleep research has shown that the risk of causing a wreck increases with the number of hours on duty (NSF).
  7. Studies reveal that most people need at least 8 hours of sleep to maintain proper alertness (NSF).
    1. A U.S. government study found that commercial drivers complying with hours-of-service rules generally obtain about 3 hours less sleep per day than necessary (NSF).
    2. A study of long distance truckers by the Insurance Institute for Automotive Safety revealed that 1/3 of all truckers routinely exceed their maximum driving hours and 75% of truckers occasionally do so.
  8. Fatigue impairs:
    1. reaction time;
    2. vision;
    3. judgment;
    4. information processing;
    5. short-term memory;
    6. motivation;
    7. vigilance; and
    8. performance.
  9. Driving while fatigued is the similar to driving while intoxicated:
    1. After 18 hours of sustained wakefulness a driver is impaired just as much as if he had a blood alcohol level of .05% (a 200 pound man imbibing three drinks in less than an hour has a BAC of .045%)
    2. 24 hours of sustained wakefulness equals a blood alcohol level of .10% (Dawson & Reid, 1997; Williamson & Feyer, 2000) (after six drinks in less than a hour, a 200 pound man has a BAC of just over .10%)
    3. Drinking one beer after 4 hours of sleep can have the effect of a six-pack (Roehrs, 1994)