Did you know, you don’t actually have to have been drinking alcohol to drive like you are under the influence of it. Driving while drowsy is like driving under the influence. A driver’s reaction time, awareness of hazards, and ability to maintain focus all worsen the drowsier he or she gets.

  • According to NIOSH, after 17 hours awake, impairment is equivalent to having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .05; that rises to a BAC of .10 after 24 hours.
  • A driver is 3 times more likely to be in a car crash if he or she is fatigued.

Every year, according to the NHTSA, there are about 100,000 police-reported crashes that involve drowsy driving, resulting in more than 1,550 fatalities and 71,000 injuries. Some of these happen while driving on the job.

As an employer, do you know the effects fatigue can have on your workers, especially when they get behind the wheel of a vehicle?

More than 43% of workers are sleep-deprived and those most at risk work the night shift, long shifts, or irregular shifts. Fatigue can impair one’s ability to safely perform tasks, including driving.

  • Making a driver react more slowly to changing road conditions, other drivers and pedestrians
  • Potentially causing drivers to experience “tunnel vision” (when you lose sense of what’s going on in the periphery)
  • Potentially causing microsleeps (brief sleep episodes lasting from a fraction of a second up to 30 seconds)
  • Forgetting the last few miles driven

How can you prevent driver fatigue on the job?

As part of your safety and health program, implement a fatigue risk management system. Learn more at the CDC website. These are a few other suggestions to get you started.

  • Put in place policies that sets limits on overtime and/or the maximum allowable consecutive shifts, especially for employees who drive as part of their job.
  • Educate employees on the importance of sleep to their health and ways to help them manage fatigue. Provide checklists to help them understand the symptoms of fatigue.
  • Implement a system to allow for rest and/or napping breaks, especially during extended shifts.
  • Encourage colleagues to keep an eye out for fatigue symptoms in co-workers.