Driving Fatigue

GOODFELLOW AFB, Texas -- "If only they could drive like me!" "I can drive 500 miles without stopping!" Haven't we all heard these same words before? Unfortunately for us all, there are also tragic stories from the same individuals that are not recited often enough. Human nature is to fit in as much as possible, and driving is no exception. We all need to use extreme caution and exercise the best possible judgment for a safe holiday outcome. The following is a report from www.tdi.state.tx.us that can help in recognizing the signs of fatigue and ways to prevent it.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that the principle causes of about 100,000 police reported road crashes each year are driver drowsiness and fatigue. Drowsiness is as dangerous to driving as falling asleep at the wheel. Most drivers have experienced fatigue and the trance-like state caused by staring too long at the white lines in the center of the road. Road trance can result in slow perceptions and reaction times, and can leave drivers unable to remember how they reached their destination.

Symptoms of driver fatigue and road trance:
· Burning sensation in the eyes
· Eyelids feel heavy
· Inability to focus eyes
· Muscles begin to twitch
· Back tension
· Yawning
· Thoughts wander and are disconnected
· Limbs feel heavy, or light and tingly, or numb
· Breathing becomes shallow

There are some very basic causes of fatigue. Lack of sleep or poor quality sleep is often compounded by poor diet, being overweight, lack of exercise, and/or consuming alcohol. In our daily lives it is sometimes difficult to eat a balanced diet, get adequate exercise or even have a restful sleep. A long road trip, or driving for a living, can create even greater obstacles to our well being. This is why we need to take an active part in prevention when it comes to driving in a tired or distracted state.

Here are some recommendations to help prevent driver fatigue and road trance:
· Get regular exercise
· Plan a healthy, well-balanced diet
· Aim for seven or eight hours sleep
· Start out as early in the day as possible
· Eat a light meal before driving, not a heavy one
· Avoid driving alone whenever possible
· Keep trips to reasonable distances
· Try to avoid long night drives
· Keep driver's area cool and well ventilated
· Avoid soft music, change radio stations often
· Talk to passengers without being distracted
· Watch for road and traffic signs
· Drive with an erect posture, with legs at a 45-degree angle
· Take breaks every two hours or 100 miles
· On break, get out of the vehicle and walk, jog or stretch
· Avoid driving during hours when you would normally be sleeping
· Stop to eat snacks or light meals
· Avoid alcohol and any medications that might cause drowsiness
· Sing, chew gum, stretch, vary driving speeds, and listen to the radio to keep alert
· Wear sunglasses only during daylight hours.
· If it is essential, pull over and take a nap of no more than 20 minutes. Any longer will make you feel groggy.

These suggestions will help avoid accidents that often result from driver fatigue and road trance. An alert driver is a safe driver. Remember to practice safety. Don't learn it by accident.

For more information call or visit the Texas Department of Insurance, Division of Safety Violations Hotline 1-800-452-9595 safetyhotline@tdi.state.tx.us