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Overcoming Fatigued Driving Accidents

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Recently while on a trip to see a client, I met a claims adjuster for a national insurance carrier. After talking about our respective jobs and realizing we had many things in common, he shared with me details regarding an accident that he had just come back from investigating.

At 4:30 a.m. the driver of an 18-wheeler was traveling on a two lane road in West Texas with a posted speed limit of 70 mph. He had been on the road for about three hours and was scheduled to deliver his load by 6:30 a.m. that same morning.

A couple of hours away from his destination he began to feel drowsy. He tried to fight off the need to sleep by doing the usual things—playing loud music, cranking down the A/C, opening windows—but, unfortunately, this time they didn’t work. He fell asleep, crossed the center line and had a head-on collision with another vehicle. The driver of the 18-wheeler, while bruised up, was fine, but the driver of the vehicle he hit did not survive.

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(Pictured left: the 18-wheeler whose driver fell asleep; Middle: the aftermath of the vehicle that was hit by the 18-wheeler; Right: an example of what the vehicle looked like before the accident)

Drowsy driving is a factor in more than 100,000 crashes, resulting in 1,550 deaths and 40,000 injuries annually in the United States*. No one ever wants to give or receive “that” call. The stories are real, and the results are devastating.

As additional precautionary measures, Cobbs Allen recommends proactively adding the following to your current driver safety protocol:

  • Get a good night's sleep before heading off on a long trip.
  • Don't travel for more than eight to ten hours a day.
  • Take regular breaks – at least every two hours.
  • Share the driving wherever possible.
  • Don't drink alcohol before your trip. Even a small amount can significantly contribute to driver fatigue.
  • Don't travel at times when you'd usually be sleeping.
  • Take a 15-minute power nap if you feel yourself becoming drowsy.
  • Develop proactive driver schedules to reduce driving at high hazard times when possible.
  • Invest in Driver Fatigue Monitoring Systems.

All industries, especially the construction, oil and gas industries, are faced with scheduling and production demands. But as managers, we must keep in mind that no schedule or load is more important than our employees or the public’s safety.

 

*According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration