Should you be driving if you’re tired?

When it comes to impaired driving, we often liken it to driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or being distracted by our cell phones while we’re behind the wheel. 

However, driving while fatigued is a cause of impairment that’s much more prevalent — and just as dangerous. 

Driver fatigue can be defined as physical and/or mental fatigue that reduces a person’s ability to drive. When a fatigued person is driving, their level of awareness, judgement, perception, and ability to react decreases.  

20% of fatal collisions are a result of fatigued driving 

Transport Canada reports that about 60 per cent of Canadian drivers have admitted to occasionally driving while feeling fatigued, and 15 per cent have even fallen asleep behind the wheel at least once in the past year. 

It’s estimated that about 20 per cent of fatal collisions involve a fatigued driver. Amongst fatal heavy vehicle collisions, this figure jumps to 30 per cent. 

Who is at risk here?

All drivers are susceptible to fatigue. However, certain factors can increase the risk of falling asleep behind the wheel: 

  • A lack of sleep within the past 24 hours, or accumulated over several days 
  • A disruption of circadian rhythms, or our “internal clocks” – common amongst rotating or night shift workers 
  • Sleep disorders that reduce the quality of one’s sleep 
  • Medication that causes drowsiness, or that contains caffeine and disrupts sleep 
  • Young males, who are more likely to drive late at night and be sleep deprived 
  • Commercial vehicle drivers who drive for long periods of time 

5 Signs of driver fatigue to watch out for  

If you find yourself doing the following things, you’re probably feeling drowsy and aren’t in the best shape to drive: 

  1. Yawning and/or blinking frequently 
  2. Eyes going out of focus or closing for a couple seconds
  3. Having wandering thoughts and unable to concentrate
  4. Difficulty remembering the last few kilometers driven
  5. Difficulty staying in your lane or maintaining speed 

How to avoid driver fatigue 

So what can you do to avoid driver fatigue? The best solution is getting a good night’s rest. 

Making sleep a priority and putting in the effort to enhance the quality of your sleep is a great first step that will not only help you stay awake on the road, but is also essential to a healthy lifestyle. It’s recommended that young adults (18 to 25) and adults (26 to 64) should be getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.  

However, with life’s busy schedules, we might occasionally find ourselves trying to function while feeling a persistent sense of tiredness. Take a look at these suggestions that might help manage you better manage fatigue: 

Have a Coffee or take a Nap: Having a coffee and then a quick nap can help you feel re-energized for your journey ahead. However, if caffeine’s not for you, a quick 15 to 30-minute nap will do the trick too. 

Take a pit stop: If you’ve got a long drive ahead of you, take one or a couple pit stops along the way – whether to pick up some groceries, a quick bite to eat, or to use the bathroom, this will be a good chance to stretch your legs and recharge.

Keep cool: Warmth can make you feel drowsy, so set the climate control inside your car to some a temperature that’s cool and comfortable (something around 18 to 20°C).

Use your best judgement: If your instincts tell you that you are too tired to drive, then don’t drive. Pull over and take a quick nap, or take a walk to wake yourself up. Playing it safe and making this decision could save your life or someone else’s. 

Driving is an essential part of daily life for many Canadians, and in our busy lives, we might find ourselves driving while fatigued, even if we don’t mean to. If you have been involved in a car accident involving a fatigued driver, the lawyers at Harris Law can help you receive the support you deserve. We’ll even conduct our own investigation. 

Contact us today for a free consultation.