Your eyelids feel heavy. You’re getting sleepy, very sleepy. Hope you’re not driving.

Unfortunately, for a chunk of Ontario drivers involved in vehicle collisions, sleepy they were. A report released by the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) and members of the Highway Safety Roundtable in February notes almost 20 per cent of all fatal vehicle accidents in the province involve fatigued drivers.

Fatigue poses potentially grave risks for anybody required to drive as part of their jobs. And the presence of tired drivers on the road is a danger for other motorists as well, says Robert Tremblay, director of road safety and special projects for the IBC.

The issue of fatigue and truckers has received plenty of attention, Tremblay says, but an education gap continues to exist for workers whose driving is a secondary purpose. Like any message, he says, there is the need to “repeat, and repeat and repeat.”

The report identifies fatigue as a condition characterized by a lack of alertness and reduced mental and physical performance, often accompanied by drowsiness. It manifests as forgetfulness, poor communication, impaired decision-making skills, slow reaction time, microsleep, mood disturbance and/or irritability.

An analysis by Yoassry Elzohairy, senior safety research advisor for Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation, indicates that 17.8 per cent of fatal crashes and 25.5 per cent of crashes causing injury in the province in 2004 were related to fatigue. Class Clicensed bus drivers were involved in fatigue-related crashes at a rate of 225 per 10,000 drivers compared with 169 per 10,000 for school bus drivers, 146 per 10,000 for tractor-trailer drivers and 74 per 10,000 for other bus drivers. Elzohairy further notes fatigue is under-reported as a factor in crashes where the driver does not actually fall asleep.

There is no doubt that fatigue is a driving “impairment,” says Constable Dave Woodford, a media relations officer for the Ontario Provincial Police’s highway safety division. Rolling down a car window, blasting the radio and throwing back cups of coffee are sorry substitutes for adequate rest when it comes to combating fatigue, Woodford contends.

“Far too many people don’t [pull over and sleep], and as a result they could be involved in a collision,” he says.

Dr. Alison Smiley, president of Human Factors North Inc. near Toronto, presents evidence in the report that highway rumble strips are effective in preventing single-vehicle accidents, reducing their occurrence by 18 to 21 per cent. Pre-planned fatigue countermeasures — chiefly, getting an adequate amount of sleep — have been shown to be more effective than after-the-fact countermeasures, Dr. Smiley says.

My opinion

There is a need to develop a plan for all of their drivers that may be on the road on the company’s behalf. Fatigue is a real hazard and must be dealt with before the driver heads out onto the road.

The Ontario Ministry of Transportation suggests some of the following strategies to avoid road conflicts.

1. Plan your route in advance. Being lost can cause erratic and inconsiderate driving.
2. Don’t take your problems with you when you drive.
3. If you feel stressed get plenty of fresh air by breathing deeply and slowly and listen to relaxing music.
4. Take rest breaks on long drives and avoid heavy meals.
5. Drive courteously giving the right of way at intersections and merging lanes of traffic.
6. Don’t try to educate others with bad driving habits.
7. Don’t take other’s driving mistakes personally.
8. Avoid honking at someone making a mistake, unless it is absolutely necessary for safety reasons.
9. If you make a make a mistake a simple smile can make the difference.
10. If you are being physically threatened, stay in your car and lock the doors. Call the police if you have a cell phone. Use your horn and lights to attract attention.
11. If you think you are being followed, do not drive home. Go to a police station or a busy public place.
12. Don’t carry a defensive weapon it might provoke a potential assailant.

Remember  In Ontario, ALL Accidents are Preventable!

HRS Group Inc. has a great team that can help you with all your health and safety needs including ‘Due Diligence’ and ‘Standard Operating Procedures’. Contact Deborah toll free at 1-877-907-7744 or locally at 705-749-1259.

We can also be reached at info@hrsgroup.com

Work and Play safe.

Daniel L. Beal
CHSEP – Foundation Level
VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.

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