Driver Danger: Drunk, Distracted or Drowsy

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Any of these can create serious driving issues.

Drunk, distracted, or drowsy: what’s the worst? The reality is that all of them are dangerous for your drivers, and it’s essential to understand the risks and what you can do to keep them in check.

It’s also important not to consider them as entirely separate issues, but problems that may be connected. A driver who tied one on last night may have slept poorly because of it, and is drowsy enough that he never thinks to stop and look up from his phone.

Sobering up

Driving while impaired by alcohol is usually cause for dismissal with most fleets, but there could be more to it than actually drinking on the job. If your late-night partier took his celebrations well beyond midnight, he could potentially still be impaired when he arrives for work. How long alcohol stays in the system depends on the person, but it has to be metabolized by the body, which on average takes about an hour per ounce.

At a blood alcohol content of 0.08, the level for criminal charges when driving in Canada, it can take five and a half hours to become completely sober, and drinking coffee or taking a shower will do nothing to speed that up.

Even a hangover can be a problem if it’s severe enough, since your driver won’t be concentrating on his driving. It might be better for everyone, including your business’ reputation and other people on the road, if he’s sent home to deal with it.

Drugs can also create issues, including some prescription medications. Experts are divided on how marijuana can affect driving, and test methods and potential penalties are still being determined for the proposed Cannabis Act, which is set to pass into law on July 1st, 2018.

Too tired to drive

Studies have now shown that drowsy driving can be similar to driving drunk. It can even start with that, since alcohol disrupts the sleep cycle, and someone who had a few before bedtime probably didn’t get a full night of restful sleep.

While fatigue-related crashes are seldom tagged as such, studies estimate that drowsiness is a factor in 20 percent of fatal crashes, and in a survey, 20 percent of Canadians admitted to falling asleep at the wheel in the past year.

A study by Queen’s University found that someone who has been awake for 21 hours makes driving errors similar to those of a person with a blood alcohol level of 0.08.

No quick fix

As with intoxication, there isn’t a simple remedy. Opening the window, drinking coffee or turning up the stereo can be temporary fixes, but drowsy drivers really need to take a break or, best of all, go home and get some rest.

Distracted driving has hit the headlines because of cell phones, but there can be many other disruptions to your driver’s attention. Fiddling with climate or stereo controls, checking paperwork, looking for addresses, or checking a precarious load all take eyes off the road.

And of course cell phones are an issue: a study by Virginia Tech’s Transportation Institute found that text messaging increases the risk of a crash or near-crash by more than 23 times. Some fleets require dispatch to leave messages, which drivers can only return once they’re parked. For everyone’s sake, drunk, drowsy and distracted driving has no place in your business.

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