Chamber Chat - Drowsy Driving Week

Nov 11

By Meg Moss


November 4-11, 2018 is Drowsy Driving Prevention Week. According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleepiness can impair driving performance as much or more so than alcohol; and the American Automobile Association (AAA) estimates that one out of every six deadly traffic accidents are due to drowsy driving. It is estimated that 70 million people are sleep deprived or suffer from some type of sleep disorder. Nearly ¼ of adults in the United States have stated that the know someone who has fallen asleep at the wheel. Adult males are far more likely to drive when drowsy. People tend to fall asleep when traveling on high speed, long or rural highways.

Almost 3 percent of all working Americans are drivers of some sort — more than 2 percent are truck drivers, 0.4 percent are bus drivers and 0.3 percent are cabbies and other types of drivers, according to Census Bureau occupational data.

On the nation’s freeways, the backs of many semi-trucks often read “Help Wanted”. NBC News tells us that our booming economy has led to record freight shipments, and the trucking industry is struggling with a severe shortfall of drivers. “And long-haulers aren’t alone. Delivery services, cab companies, even ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft are struggling to find the drivers they need to keep their freight and passengers moving.” Transportation is a real job consideration. Becoming a professional driver is one way to make a decent living without more than a high school diploma.

NBC News goes on to tell us that there are currently about 3.5 million professional truck drivers in United States, according to the American Trucking Associations (ATA). And the number has been rising fast as more and more freight takes to the road. Trucks are expected to handle 10.73 billion tons of goods this year, or two-thirds of the nation’s total, according to the ATA.

The Federal Motor Carrier organization reminds drivers that as the driver of a large, heavy truck, employees have a lot of responsibility as they drive down the road. The biggest concern is safety. That brings them to the main reason for the hours-of-service regulations – to keep fatigued drivers off the public roadways. These regulations put limits in place for when and how long over the road drivers may drive, to ensure that they stay awake and alert while driving, and on a continuing basis to help reduce the possibility of driver fatigue. The hours-of-service regulations are found in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. These regulations are developed and enforced by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which is part of the United States Department of Transportation.

The hours-of-service regulations state that drivers are allowed a period of 14 consecutive hours in which to drive up to 11 hours after being off duty for 10 or more consecutive hours. The 14-consecutive-hour driving window begins when the driver starts any kind of work. Once they have reached the end of this 14-consecutive-hour period, drivers cannot drive again until you have been off duty for another 10 consecutive hours, or the equivalent of at least 10 consecutive hours off duty. And who exactly has to comply with the hours-of-service regulations? In general it is a truck, or truck-tractor with a trailer, that is involved in interstate commerce and: weighs (including any load) 10,001 pounds (4,536 kg) or more, or, has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating of 10,001 pounds (4,536 kg) or more, or is transporting hazardous materials in a quantity requiring placards.

According to the North Carolina Department of Commerce, there are several ways to prevent drowsy driving. Remember: Adults need an average of 7-9 hours of sleep a night; if you have been up for 24 hours, avoid driving; if driving and you feel sleepy pull over an take a short rest; travel during the times when you are normally awake; and/or drink a beverage that contains caffeine. And while this is Drowsy Driving Prevention Week, let’s remember that distracted driving is a danger in and of itself. Put down those cell phones, folks. The calls and texts can wait.

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