New Braunfels, TX, September 6, 2023
Driver wellness is not just about keeping drivers healthy enough to report to work. A June 2020 study by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) shows that poor physical and mental health result in a higher crash risk among drivers. According to assorted studies by industry groups there are approximately 3.5 million commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers on the road today. The risks these drivers face on a daily basis make them 9 times more likely to be involved in a fatal accident, and 2.5 times more likely to suffer an occupational injury or illness, than the average worker. Accidents involving commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) can be catastrophic – goods can be spilled causing environmental risks, material can be destroyed causing unforeseen expenses, vehicles and property can be damaged leading to worker downtime, and as previously mentioned people can be seriously injured, and in the worst cases, people could even die. The key to preventing CMV accidents is making sure that drivers are in the best physical and mental condition possible and that they avoid any distractions while driving. Today we will discuss three key points to keep in mind about your own wellness before getting behind the wheel.
- Take the necessary steps to avoid driver fatigue.
- Find ways to manage driver stress.
- Your overall health is key to safe driving.
TAKE THE NECESSARY STEPS TO AVOID DRIVER FATIGUE
Did you know that you are three times more likely to be in a car crash if you are fatigued? According to the data combined from FMCSA, the National Highway and Safety Administration(NHITSA) and OSHA , about 1 in 20 adult drivers report having fallen asleep while driving in the last 30 days, and many more admit to driving when they were sleep-deprived. These startling figures show how prevalent drowsy driving is. What drivers may not realize is how drowsy driving puts themselves – and others – at risk. According to the National sleep foundation driving while drowsy is similar to driving under influence of alcohol. Drivers’ reaction times, awareness of hazards and ability to sustain attention all worsen the drowsier the driver. Driving after going more than 20 hours without sleep is the equivalent of driving with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08% – the U.S. legal limit. Some warning signs of tiredness include but are not limited to: yawning, forgetting the previous few minutes of driving, having trouble keeping your head up, and blinking more than usual. Some tips to help prevent driver fatigue-related crashes include planning your day to ensure you get sufficient sleep. While not everyone is the same, 8 hrs. of actual sleep is the minimum you should be targeting. If you had a extra-long day, you will need additional downtime for your body to properly recover, especially if you have a long drive the following day. For those longer trips, rotate driving duties with members on your team. Limit your time on the road between midnight and 6 a.m. if possible. This is the time your body naturally wants to be asleep and staying awake can be extra difficult. In summary, plan your trips and workdays in a manner that allow for sufficient rest and recovery periods.
FIND WAYS TO MANAGE DRIVER STRESS
Those who must spend a lot of time in the car have less time to put toward physical and mental well-being. Today’s workforce is faced with increased stress as deadlines, margins, and productivity are continuously monitored. When you add in arguments with our significant others or financial worries, we have a recipe for disaster. Stressed drivers often report poor sleep quality, increased back pain, and less happiness. Personal issues that carry over into your workday can cause underlying mental issues such as anger and depression. Angry driving can lead to diminished decision making and cause you to take undue risk on the road. Depression can force you to lose your focus and miss seeing those brake lights right in front of you. It’s important to try and balance emotions at home and not allow those stresses to distract us from our tasks, especially driving. The same goes for stress you may be feeling at work. Don’t let things like inclement weather, construction zones, and late starts stress you out. These situations are all manageable and should not take away from your focus of the road. Lastly, nothing can stress someone out more than other drivers. Unfortunately, we have no control over the inconsiderate driving actions and methods other drivers will use on the road. The best medicine for these situations is pull back, allow them to move around you and keep your distance. You should never interact with another driver on the roadway under these conditions. It only brings additional stress and can discredit the company. Take a deep breath, pull over if you need to and reset your focus if you are in an extreme situation. Like we always say – Safety over production, well that applies to driving as well. We would rather you take an extra few minutes to arrive safely then to let the stresses of life, work, or other drivers create dangerous situations on the road.
YOUR OVERALL HEALTH IS KEY TO SAFE DRIVING
A recent study by the FMCSA concluded that drivers with common health concerns such as high blood pressure or heart disease were more than twice as likely to be involved in a preventable crash. By taking steps to proactively manage your health you decrease your chances of serious incidents on the road. Simple things like stretching before a longer than usual drive, limiting your intake of energy drinks, eating healthy snacks, and taking short walks can all lead to improved health and contribute to fewer vehicle incidents. In some cases, the small things might not be enough and in those cases you should seek out the guidance of your medical provider. Do not rely on the DOT medical card to be your only means of getting your health in line. If you think you have some potentially underlying health issues, see a doctor sooner rather than later. Healthy drivers are safer drivers!
Today we covered only a few items related to driver wellness. We could be here for several hours discussing many other aspects of the topic. Things like avoiding alcohol and drugs, knowing the side-effects of medication, and using proper ergonomics are other subjects to consider when addressing driver wellness. When you make healthy choices and take a few extra seconds to focus, you greatly diminish the risks for vehicle incidents.
If you would like more information on this topic or any other safety-related topic, please reach out to the Ontivity safety team at email@example.com, and we will get you taken care of.