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Driver Fatigue: How to Stay Safe on The Road

driver fatigue
Fatigue may be described as a “sleepiness” or exhaustion. Signs include drooping eyelids, a bobbing head, and the overpowering feeling of a need to fall asleep.

Driver fatigue may happen when a person has not slept enough, but it can also happen due to sleep disorders, medications, drinking alcohol, high stress or night shift work. Driving is a task that requires attention and must be performed while alert and aware; attempting to operate a vehicle while fatigued may impair a person’s ability to drive.

Driver Fatigue: From Research to Reality

Scientists from the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety and Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital examined the impact of night shift work on drowsiness and driving performance. The study found that more than a third of drivers who operated a vehicle on a closed test track after working the night shift were involved in near-crash events. The same drivers, with normal sleep the night before the test, had zero near-crashes. These and other findings provide evidence of the dangers of drowsy driving.

The Four Main Driver Fatigue Countermeasures


These benefits are temporary solutions and should only be used infrequently, as they have short-lasting effects:

  • Use of caffeine to enhance heart rate and alertness.
  • Being conscious of light exposure depending on upcoming timeframe of scheduled work shift.


Long-term benefits derived by the way employees are scheduled and how they spend their time when off the clock include:

  • Working similar shifts on a daily basis.
  • Planning schedules well ahead of time to allow for adequate rest.
  • Having appropriate rest periods within the work schedule.
  • Providing information on outside of work activities, such as health and fitness and their effect on rest.


Similar to strategic countermeasures, these are effective immediately and have short-lasting effects:

  • Talking to others.
  • Exposure to light.
  • Lowering the temperature.
  • Physical activity.


Measures designed to detect fatigue, monitor hours of service, and prevent accidents include:

  • Fitness for duty testing.
  • Lane tracking devices.
  • Electronic on-board recorders.


Takeaways When You Experience Driver Fatigue

  1. Get enough sleep. Most adults need at least 7 hours of sleep per day.
  2. Develop good sleeping habits, such as sticking to a sleep schedule.
  3. Avoid drinking alcohol or taking medications that make you sleep (be sure to check the label on any medications or talk to your pharmacist).