Uber recently made news with the implementation of a limit to the length of its drivers’ shifts.
The mandate, which requires that drivers must take at least six hours off every time they work at least 12 consecutive hours, could have a dual purpose. Uber maintains that the focus is on preventing drowsy driving. Others hint that the move is Uber’s way to limit income for drivers.
Lyft drivers are already required to take a six-hour break for every 14 hours of driving.
But according to Business Insider, it isn’t uncommon to switch between driving for Uber and Lyft. A bit of calculated timing would allow for a driver to work for more than the 12 or 14 hours without a break, provided they drive for one company while on a break from the other.
Regardless, the new rule goes in to effect for Uber drivers at the end of the month and could help reduce the risk of sleep deprivation-related accidents.
What exactly is drowsy driving?
Drowsy driving is a problem that plagues all drivers – not just those driving for taxi services. Like drugs or alcohol, sleepiness can slow reaction time, decrease awareness and impair judgement. All of these factors lead to an increase in car crashes.
The issue is not just limited to a lack of sleep – often, it’s a lack of good sleep that causes drivers to become dangerous behind the wheel. Fragmented sleep, insomnia, narcolepsy and erratic work schedules can all contribute to fatigue, which can be fatal when driving.
Being awake for 18 hours straight makes you drive like you have a blood alcohol level of .05. If you’ve been awake for a full 24 hours and drive, it’s like you have a blood alcohol level of .10.
For reference, in Florida, drunk driving laws prohibit the operation of any vehicle at a level of .08.
Drowsy driving happens – a lot
Driving while not fully alert puts everyone at risk, yet according to the National Sleep Foundation’s “Sleep in America” poll, more than half of Americans have driven while feeling sleepy.
The National Sleep Foundation points to these signs that you need to get off the road and take a rest:
- Difficulty focusing, frequent blinking, or heavy eyelids
- Daydreaming; wandering/disconnected thoughts
- Trouble remembering the last few miles driven; missing exits or traffic signs
- Yawning repeatedly or rubbing your eyes
- Trouble keeping your head up
- Drifting from your lane, tailgating, or hitting a shoulder rumble strip
- Feeling restless and irritable
According to Tuck, a site geared toward improving sleep, it is no surprise that the majority of drowsy driving accidents occur from midnight to 7 a.m. – a period of time when we are naturally programmed to be asleep.
Unfortunately, statistics on the frequency and contributing factors to drowsy driving are likely incomplete. Cases of drowsy driving can often be confused with distracted driving or driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol and misclassified as such.
How to prevent drowsy driving
Drowsy driving is unfortunately very common and very serious. But it can also be prevented. The primary way to prevent drowsy driving is to get adequate rest. This could be a good night’s sleep before setting off on the road, pulling off to a rest stop for a nap when you’re feeling tired or checking in to a hotel instead of driving through the night.
Outside of actually sleeping, there are a variety of ways to stay more alert on the road. Keep windows open, chew gum, listen to music and/or consume caffeinated beverages. Driving during the day can also prevent fatigued vehicle operation.
Traveling with a friend also reduces your risk of drowsy driving. A UCLA study showed that 82% of drowsy driving incidents were caused by single-occupant vehicles. Passengers can provide stimulation to keep you alert as well as accountability to someone other than yourself. They also provide the possibility of being able to take over behind the wheel if they are a licensed passenger.