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Driving while fatigued increases your risk of being involved in an auto accident. Knowing the causes and symptoms of driver fatigue and learning effective strategies for preventing this driving hazard could help save your life.

A lack of quality rest and long periods of wakefulness are frequent causes of driver fatigue. This can affect any driver, but night-shift workers, commercial drivers who put in long hours behind the wheel, individuals with undiagnosed sleep disorders, and those taking prescription medications are at greater risk. Once fatigue settles in, a driver is less aware of what is happening around them. Judgment and decision-making abilities are impaired, and reaction times slow. As fatigue and drowsiness increase, a driver may lapse into short periods of micro-sleep when they might veer off the road or collide with another vehicle.

Symptoms of Driver Fatigue

Watching for these warning signs can help you recognize that you are fatigued and tired.

  • Difficulty focusing and inattentiveness
  • Repeated yawning, head bobbing, and inability to keep eyes open
  • Feeling restless, irritable, or impatient
  • Disconnected or wandering thoughts
  • Brief lapses in memory or “zoning out”
  • Drifting to the shoulder or the adjacent lane
  • Shallow breathing, burning eyes and back tension

Driving Tips to Prevent Fatigue

You can lower your risk of a crash by getting plenty of rest and keeping up a regular sleep schedule. Try to avoid driving alone and traveling late at night. If you start to see any signs of fatigue, pull off the road in a safe, well-lit area and take a nap. On longer road trips, take a break every two hours and keep the temperature down inside the car. Also remember to have your vehicle inspected regularly, so it can be safe and reliable when you drive.