Sadly, drowsiness causes many real-life incidents every day which result in injury and loss of life and there are some common elements contributing to the risk.
When a road authority receives accident data pointing to potential danger on a stretch of public road, they introduce measures to reduce the hazards common to that location. Actions could include decreasing the speed limit, installing road barriers, or improving road surfaces, markings, and signage.
The downside of the accident data is that it does not include near misses or incidents where road authorities aren’t notified. This means there may be numerous danger spots which to date have not been recognised by road authorities but which present a significant risk to our drivers.
Truck and train drivers are often driving by themselves, without another person to talk to and help keep them alert. They have no one to swap driving with or who could potentially identify the signs of drowsiness.
Several studies have pointed to a large percentage of the population admitting to drowsy driving in the past year and being a professional driver does not exempt someone from this state; indeed the pressures of deadlines add to the possibility of ignoring how one feels and continuing on regardless.
Not only must drivers and pilots remain vigilant throughout a long and demanding shift, but they must also stay alert while they are travelling home at the end of a shift. This journey might add another two hours to an already-lengthy 10-hour day.
Pilots, truck, coach, bus and rail drivers all fall under the category facing long work distances each shift.
For drivers and pilots, they can be moving across states or even the country, for many hours at a time. Tight deadlines can encourage drivers to push themselves beyond their limits such as driving through the night or skipping their assigned rest break.
As we know, the circadian rhythm is instrumental in controlling the body’s internal “clock”. This natural regulator of sleeping patterns tells our bodies when it is time to fall asleep at night, and when to start waking up in the morning.
Most drowsiness-related incidents occur between certain time periods as outlined below:
You might be surprised to see this time slot in here – a seemingly ordinary time of the day, where kids are finishing school and you’re looking forward to that 5pm kick-off.
The 3pm lull is real, and there is an explanation for your slump in attention and alertness.
It’s not you being lazy; it’s a natural release of melatonin that makes you want to take a nap. It is, in fact, the same thing that happens before bedtime, although on a smaller scale.
As you age, melatonin levels do begin to decrease, however the time in which it is released and reaches its peak generally remains the same; between 11pm and 7am.
By this time, the body’s natural melatonin levels have risen, signaling sleep. This is when the body starts preparing for sleep, and if you’re in the middle of a shift, you’re working hard to fight this.
This is a common time period where many overnight shifts end. Driving home after a long shift during this time is one of the most dangerous times for road accidents involving drowsiness.
An aging workforce, and repetition of tasks further increase the chance of drowsy-related incidents but they can be addressed through the use of Optalert’s patented technology.