The increased demands and activities of the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s holidays, such as parties, family gatherings and shopping, means that drivers are often skimping on a good night’s sleep. Additionally, companies may put additional driving demands on drivers based on the busy holiday season. This translates into a particularly dangerous time of year for fatigue-related accidents.
Consequently, as a professional driver, you should do all you can to help protect yourself against the dangers of drowsy driving this holiday season:
• Don’t over do it. Commit to attend some of the season’s social events, but you don’t have to attend all of them. Instead, schedule some time to relax.
• Get plenty of sleep and avoid driving during a body’s down time, whenever possible. Experts suggest getting seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep per night. Work with your company management and family members to establish schedules that allow you to get sufficient sleep and minimize your risk of fatigue.
• Make healthy lifestyle choices. Eat healthy meals (including breakfast), exercise regularly, and don’t drink alcohol or smoke on the job. While the holidays are a time for indulgence, how we treat our bodies can have a big impact on our sleep.
• Don’t rely on caffeine as substitute for sleep. Caffeine may provide a short-term boost to alertness, but the other effects of sleep deprivation can continue to interfere with safe driving.
• Use medications with care. Be sure to read the labels before taking any medications as some can cause drowsiness.
• Plan each trip carefully, including where and when to eat and sleep. While driving, take a break every two hours to three hours, exiting the vehicle to walk around, stretch and get some fresh air.
• Adjust the vehicle’s environment. Make sure it’s well ventilated and relatively bright at night (you may keep a light on as long as it does not impair your ability to see). Program the vehicle’s temperature so it’s not too hot or too cold.
• Wear polarized sunglasses. This will help cut down on sun glare, and avoid eye fatigue.
• Watch out for drowsy and impaired drivers. If you’re not alert to the possible erratic behavior of others, even a momentary lapse in attention could be disastrous.
• Recognize your body’s limitation and the signs of fatigue. When you feel them, pull over at the first safe, legal location and get some rest.
• Seek help. Consult with a physician if you are experiencing any chronic sleep problems.
The responsibility for alert driving rests upon your shoulders. By doing all you can to help protect yourself against the dangers of drowsy driving will help assure that you arrive safely throughout the holiday season and the coming New Year