Truckers likely know that it's not a good idea to operate their big rigs when they're feeling even a little bit tired, but they might not realize just how dangerous doing so may be. Drowsy driving is a highly dangerous activity even in a passenger vehicle, let alone a tractor trailer that weighs several tons and moves very differently from smaller cars and trucks.
As such, these are just some of the things you need to know about driving while tired:
1) Drowsy driving affects everyone
Everyone get's tired, and no matter how many years you've been working as a trucker, there may come a time when you start to get drowsy behind the wheel, according to the National Safety Council. Regardless of your track record, it's vital to listen to your body and know when it's time to call it a night.
2) You have to know the signs
Of course, it's not just "nodding off" at the wheel that indicates drowsy driving; in fact, that's one of the last signs that you're in trouble, the NSC added. Instead, if you notice yourself yawning more often, missing turns, not keeping your foot on the gas pedal and so on, those can be earlier warning signs.
3) It's vital to prioritize sleep
Many truckers struggle to get their full recommended eight hours of sleep each night, but you have to do what you can to get as much as possible whenever you can, according to Sleep Education. That way, your chances of reaching a point where you're driving drowsy — either at night or even in the mornings — are significantly reduced.
4) It can be just as dangerous as drunk driving
Numerous studies have shown driving on minimal sleep can be just as risky as driving after a few alcoholic drinks, Sleep Education cautioned. That just underscores the fact that you should never engage in this behavior. You wouldn't drink and drive, so you shouldn't operate a tractor trailer while drowsy.
5) You should plan to take breaks every few hours
A great way to make sure you don't drive drowsy is by scheduling a stop, even if it's just for a few minutes, every two hours or so, according to the Loyola University Health System. This way, you get the chance to take stock of how you're feeling and make a determination about whether you'd be better off pulling over for the night.
6) Know how your medications may affect you
Many truckers take one or more medications and you should always talk to your doctor about side effects, as well as how they may interact with one another, the Loyola University Health System said. If there's a chance they increase drowsiness, you at least have to be aware of that, and work with your health care provider to find workarounds.
7) Be prepared to pull off the road at the first opportunity
Finally, you need to get into the mindset that you can't "power through" drowsiness and should look for an opportunity to park as soon as you experience symptoms, Loyola University Health System advised. When you do so, you're never putting yourself or others at risk.
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