Safety authorities say the primary causes of fatigue that leads to commercial truck drivers falling asleep include acquired sleeping problems exacerbated by their circumstances, long driving hours and unhealthy lifestyles -- all directly linked to their jobs.
The following precautions may protect you on your travels along highways in Oklahoma and other states:
- Don't start your trip tired: Make sure you have a good night's sleep before driving the next day. However, take note that natural drowsiness typically sets in between 12 a.m. and 6 a.m. and again between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. If you feel drowsy it is recommended you pull over where it is safe and rest a while.
- Take power naps: When you feel drowsy, a power nap of between 10 and 45 minutes can refresh you and restore your energy. However, you will need approximately 15 minutes after such rest to become fully alert before taking to the road again.
- Eat healthily: Maintaining regular meal routines while operating big rigs is challenging, but you may want to do the best you can. Eating irregularly and skipping meals can bring about food cravings, obesity and other health problems. Going to bed hungry or immediately after eating a large meal will interfere with your sleep and cause fatigue.
- Medication can cause drowsiness: Cold medications, allergy medicines, sleeping pills and tranquilizers are known to cause drowsiness. Always study the warnings for a drug before using it while driving.
- Listen to your body: Your body will tell you when it needs rest. You will start yawning, your eyes will feel heavy and you may experience blurred vision. Researchers say working through 18 hours is as risky as intoxicated driving.
- Alertness tricks are only tricks: Drinking coffee, turning up the volume of the radio, rolling down the window and lighting a cigarette may provide alertness that will only last for a few minutes, but it will not prevent a commercial vehicle accident. Drinking too much coffee can cause headaches, insomnia and irritability, which can present additional risks.
Taking these steps and making sure you are always alert can only provide some protection. The truth is that you will remain vulnerable to the negligence of other vehicle operators. If you should suffer injuries in a commercial vehicle accident, you can rely on the Oklahoma workers' compensation insurance system to provide financial assistance with medical expenses and lost wages.