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Information Bulletin - Driver Fatigue

January 31, 2008

Combat driver fatigue and stay alert to arrive alive

Edmonton….Driving while exhausted can make you a road hazard. Drowsy driving is as dangerous as impaired driving because it slows a driver’s reaction time, decreases awareness and can impair judgment like alcohol or drugs.

Lack of sleep is one of the most common causes of drowsy driving. Other contributing factors include driving alone, driving long distances without rest breaks and driving through the night, or at times when the driver normally sleeps. Taking medication that increases sleepiness or drinking alcohol also contributes to driver fatigue.

People most at risk for falling asleep at the wheel are shift workers, commercial drivers, people with untreated sleep disorders, teenagers and young adults. Fatigue-related crashes are common in young drivers because they tend to stay up late, sleep less than they should and drive more often at night.

Warning signs of driver fatigue

  • Yawning
  • Inability to keep eyes focused and head up
  • Having wandering, disconnected thoughts
  • Driving the past few kilometres without remembering them
  • Drifting between lanes, tailgating or missing traffic signs
  • Noticing a vehicle in the rear view mirror that seemed to appear out of nowhere

Most fatigue-related collisions happen between 1-4 p.m. and early in the morning between 2-6 a.m. Typically, fatigue-related collisions occur at higher speeds and can result in drivers running off the road or vehicles colliding head-on with other vehicles or stationary objects.

How to reduce driver fatigue
Despite popular opinion, turning up the radio, opening a window, drinking coffee, chewing gum or eating will not reduce driver fatigue but the following actions will.

  • Become aware of your own biological clock and avoid driving during your body's 'down time.'
  • Stop if you become sleepy while on the road.
  • Get plenty of sleep the night before a long trip.
  • Avoid working all day and then driving all night. Stay overnight rather than driving straight through.
  • Schedule a break every two hours or every 160 km. Stretch or take a walk to get some fresh air.
  • Take a mid-afternoon break. Have a 20-40 minute nap.
  • Travel with an awake and alert passenger. Having someone to chat with will keep the driver awake and the passenger can also let the driver know if he/she is showing any signs of fatigue.

Improving traffic safety is part of Premier Ed Stelmach’s plan to secure Alberta’s future by building communities, greening our growth and creating opportunity.

For more information about traffic safety, contact the Office of Traffic Safety at 780-422-8839 or visit http://www.saferoads.com/.

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Media enquiries may be directed to:

Liz Owens
Office of Traffic Safety
Alberta Transportation

Eileen McDonald
Alberta Transportation
780-422-0842 or  780-913-4609 (cell)

To call toll-free within Alberta dial 310-0000.