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Know the Signs of Driver Fatigue

Know the Signs of Driver Fatigue

Asymmetric Warfare Group
Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia

Several years ago, I was part of a unit that was reassigned from Kirkuk, in the northern region of Iraq, to Tallil Air Base, which is in the south. The battalion had about 600 pieces of equipment ranging from unmanned aviation systems to Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles. We also had about 400 military-owned demountable containers full of wood. Logistically, relocating four companies and the headquarters and headquarters company would encompass a lot of moving parts.

As the convoy neared completion, only one remaining M1114 needed to be manned and driven to the new location. Because of a shortage of personnel, a crew was filled from the remaining staff, which consisted of a young private first class, the vehicle commander (VC) and an NCO who was one of my data entry supply technicians. From what I gathered, none of the crew had ever driven outside the forward operating base (FOB).

On the convoy down, the VC fell asleep. Farther along the way on Highway 1, better known as Route Tampa, the driver nodded off as well. Eventually, the vehicle came to an abrupt stop when it struck a cement truck parked on the side of the road. The impact tore the entire machine gun turret from the vehicle and threw it down the street. Unfortunately, the gunner was still in the turret and killed instantly.

After the investigation, it was discovered that the driver was never adequately trained to drive an M1114, and the VC — who had never been off the FOB — was unaware of the inherent dangers of driving in Iraq. I am not sure of the final results of the investigation, but I do know that a good Soldier died that day, and my clerk lost an eye when he struck his head on the vehicle’s dash. This was a tragic mishap that could have been avoided.

Being sleep deprived is a lot like being under the influence of alcohol. Driving after being awake for 18 hours is equal to a blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent — legally drunk in the U.S. — and leaves you at equal risk for a crash. Whether traveling in a tactical vehicle or your private motor vehicle, never ignore the signs of driver fatigue, which include:

  • Trouble focusing, keeping your eyes open or your head up
  • Yawning or rubbing your eyes repeatedly
  • Daydreaming or having wandering thoughts
  • Drifting from your lane, tailgating or missing signs and exits
  • Restlessness, irritability or aggressiveness
  • Turning up the radio or rolling down the window
  • Slower reaction times or poor judgment

Remedies to counter fatigue include:

  • Getting a good night’s sleep before a long drive.
  • Pulling over immediately at a safe place and taking a short (15 to 20 minutes) nap.
  • Driving with a passenger. A passenger who remains awake can help watch for signs of fatigue and take a turn driving.

In addition, when operating or riding in a tactical vehicle, always wear the appropriate personal protective equipment, including a combat helmet and proper restraints. They can save your life. Through engaged leadership and proper training, we can prevent mishaps like this from occurring again.

  • 4 June 2023
  • Author: USACRC Editor
  • Number of views: 310
  • Comments: 0