Modes of Transportation

Driver Fatigue

Fatigue is one of the leading causes of traffic accidents on Québec roads, along with alcohol, speed and distraction. Don't let fatigue take you to your final resting place. Stop as soon as you feel the first signs of fatigue.

Driver fatigue: numbers to think about

Each year on average, 87 people are killed and 7,111 people are injured in an accident related to driver fatigue.

From 2018 to 2022, fatigue was a factor:

  • in 24% of fatal accidents
  • in 24% of accidents that resulted in injury or death

Drivers most at risk

  • Heavy vehicle drivers
  • Drivers under age 30 and drivers aged 55 or older
  • Workers who have irregular schedules or long work days
  • Night shift workers
  • Individuals who suffer from an undiagnosed or untreated sleep disorder
  • Individuals with a health problem that results in fatigue
  • Individuals whose lifestyle decreases the amount and quality of sleep they get

Recognizing the signs of fatigue

Some signs don't lie:

  • You yawn often.
  • Your eyes are itchy.
  • You have trouble:
    • keeping your eyes open,
    • finding a comfortable position (e.g., you're shifting around in your seat),
    • concentrating and staying attentive (e.g., you missed an exit),
    • maintaining a steady speed and keeping the vehicle on a straight course.
  • Your reactions are slower (e.g., you don’t apply the brakes as quickly as the situation requires).
  • You have memory lapses (e.g., you can’t remember the last few kilometres driven).
  • You are seeing things that are not there, particularly when there is fog or on monotonous stretches of highway (e.g., you think you see an animal on the road).
  • You stop looking in your rearview mirrors.

Is feeling tired part of your everyday life?

If you feel constantly tired or have the feeling that your sleep is not restorative, you might be suffering from a sleep disorder or another health problem. You should consult a physician.

Beware of myths!

Rolling down the window, turning up the radio, singing, changing positions, chewing gum or talking to passengers are not effective and long-lasting solutions. They are really just misconceptions concerning driver fatigue.

The effects of fatigue at the wheel

  • Slower reaction time
  • Decreased concentration
  • Altered judgment
  • Memory lapses
  • Reduced field of vision
  • Increased risk of drowsiness or falling asleep

Concretely, driving while tired means…

  • having difficulty making the right decisions on the road
  • needing more time to react to a situation, such as the appearance of an obstacle that would require sudden braking
  • having difficulty distinguishing things located on either side of the road

Testimonials by victims of driver fatigue related accidents

Videos in French only.

By clicking on the video, you will change the context of this page.

Sandra Veilleux, victime de la route (somnolence)

Transcript :

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Claude Rivest, père d'une victime de la route (perte de contrôle)

Transcript :

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Maryse Jeannotte, victime de la route (somnolence)

Transcript :

The effects of a long period of wakefulness: similar to the effects of alcohol

A laboratory study (Williamson and Feyer, 2000) compared the effects of a long period of wakefulness to the effects of alcohol (blood alcohol concentration):

  • Between 17 and 19 hours of wakefulness: Physical and mental capacities are comparable to those of a person with a blood alcohol concentration of 50 mg of alcohol/100 ml of blood (0.05).
  • After 24 hours of wakefulness: Physical and mental capacities are comparable to those of a person with a blood alcohol concentration of 100 mg of alcohol/100 ml of blood (0.10).

A few tips for keeping your eyes open during long trips

  • Get some rest before heading out and plan for breaks about every 2 hours.
  • As soon as you start to feel signs of fatigue, stop in a safe location and take a 20- to 30-minute nap. Drink coffee, ideally before you take a nap, as it may take 20 minutes for the coffee to take effect.
  • If you can, ask a passenger to take over driving duties.
  • Whenever possible, avoid driving at night or at times you would normally sleep.
  • Plan trips by taking into consideration the times when fatigue is most often felt. For example, avoid monotonous and poorly lit roads at night.
  • Slow down: over time, the extra information you need to process causes fatigue.
  • Avoid visual fatigue, for example by dimming the dashboard lighting.
  • Eat light meals and stay hydrated.
  • Take into account any medical condition that could increase the risk of fatigue.

Break or nap?

A break will improve your alertness for a very short time. A nap will help you recuperate if you are tired, and you will feel rested longer.

Naps cannot replace a good night’s sleep, but…

In case of severe fatigue, a nap can help you safely continue your trip for 2 or 3 hours. If you have more than 2 hours of driving to go when you start to feel tired again, the best thing to do is to stop for a period of time that is equivalent to a full night’s sleep.

Where is it safe to stop?

In the parking lot of a rest area, a roadside service area, a business or any other area where turning off the ignition is allowed without endangering your safety or the safety of others. You can also stop at a village-relais that provides a full range of traveller services.

The shoulder of the road: only in case of emergency

In addition to being prohibited on a highway, stopping on the shoulder is not safe, since there is a risk of collision with other vehicles.

Fatigue, alcohol, drugs and medication: a deadly mix!

Consuming alcohol, medication or drugs, or a mix of these, considerably increases the risk of being involved in a fatal accident. It also multiplies the effects of fatigue, which therefore makes driving even more dangerous.

Last update: November 18, 2022