As temperatures rise during the summer months in our province, so do driver fatigue-related crashes. By August, these incidents peak, with one person killed and 88 people injured in 110 crashes for the month, despite fatigue being underreported.
Hot summer weather and long drives can be a dangerous combination that can cause fatigue. Startlingly, over every B.C. Day long weekend, about 600 people are injured and three are killed in 2,200 crashes.
If you’re hitting the road this August, ICBC is asking you to make sure you’re properly rested, hydrated, and taking breaks from driving every two hours to reduce your risk of crashing.
Driving while fatigued is an impairment which can be just as deadly as any other. It slows reaction time, decreases awareness, and impairs judgment. Even a slight decrease in your reaction time can greatly increase your risk of crashing, especially when travelling at highway speeds.
Fatigue can sneak up on you when you’re driving. It’s important to learn the warning signs, which include: you don’t notice a vehicle until it suddenly passes you; you don’t recall driving the last few kilometres; you’re yawning or daydreaming; your speed creeps up or down; you find yourself wandering into the next lane, shoulder, or centre line; or your eyes feel heavy or you have difficulty keeping your head up.
There are several things you can do to combat driver fatigue. Travel in the morning, as drivers are prone to drowsy driving in the late-afternoon and at night, when the body’s circadian rhythm dips. Avoid driving during the night when you’d normally be asleep.
As soon as you become sleepy, the key is to stop driving. Let a passenger drive, or pull over when it’s safe, turn off your car, and take a nap. The only cure for sleepiness is sleep. Opening a window, blasting the air conditioning, or turning on music are not effective ways to keep you awake while driving.
Leave enough following distance to give yourself time to react, in case another driver on the road is impaired by fatigue. You can also look for warning signs, such as a vehicle wandering out of its lane or its speed creeping up and down.