Age is just a number. In many aspects, age may limit a person’s capacity to work because it’s part of the body’s physiology to slow down with age. However, this isn’t always the case. We see 50-year-olds who are in better shapes than most people in their 30s. It goes to show that health is a more pressing concern than age. As thousands of families lose their loved ones to road accidents annually, it is a social and moral responsibility for drivers and their respective companies to maintain the drivers’ health to avoid preventable casualty.
Health conditions that impair driving performance are a glaring commonality among the history of road accidents that don’t spare a careful driver or an innocent bystander. Health concerns should be both the employers and the drivers’ responsibility. Human error is a big factor in road safety. Although employers require medical clearance or a filled-in health questionnaire stating overall health from their drivers during the pre-employment screening, they should still monitor the health of their employees closely. Companies and agencies should require routine health checks, especially when the driver had just reported sick.
Driving has its share of occupational health hazards. Sleep disorders and fatigue are among the health problems and risks of the occupation that influences a person’s efficiency in driving a vehicle. This was reflected in a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, which maintained that drowsy and fatigued driving results to 328,000 road crashes in a year. At the same time, police reports held the number at around 100,000. According to the organization, sleep apnea may have reinforced these numbers.
Troubles of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is characterized by a temporary halt of a person’s breathing during sleep. When we sleep, the body’s muscle naturally relaxes. But this muscle relaxation in our airway won’t block the passage. For people suffering from sleep apnea, their muscles relax too much that the airway is blocked. The person wakes up as he or she gasps for air then falls back to sleep. This sleep-wake cycle throughout the night prevents adequate rest. Consequently, this sleep deprivation causes people to suffer from excessive daytime drowsiness, fatigue, and difficulty in concentration, which impair a person’s work performance. Sleep apnea can also result in more health complications.
Driving the Highway to Hell
When we take a road trip on all the roads of the United States laid from end to end, we would have gone around the Earth more than 100 times. But driving down such a long stretch of road for miles on end doesn’t exactly scream road trip adventure for most people. Especially that several of the US’s roads are literal highways to hell.
Florida’s Highway 1 was dubbed the most dangerous road in America, with 3,145 deaths out of the 395,396 road accidents. Meanwhile, Interstate 285 in Atlanta is also regarded as one of the deadliest interstates in the country because of its highest fatality rate for every 10 miles. Georgia’s busiest road is riddled with heavy traffic, unfriendly road design, and inadequate warnings for drivers. Imagine the horror of driving through streets that hold such a notorious reputation. With the road design against them, drivers have to be on high alert and be in the best shape for driving.
Consequence of Sleeping on the Wheel
And the consequences aren’t isolated to the drivers. When left unattended, it can cause more road casualties that may not end well for both the victim and the driver. In 2016, road fatalities reached around 37,000 in the US. That was a 15.6 percent increase from the figures in 2011. The numbers do not spare the careful drivers and innocent passers-by who were just going on and about their day. Of the thousands of deaths annually, how much could we have saved if we keep our drivers’ health in check?
Since drivers are responsible for carrying hundreds of people or goods, they have to be in optimum condition. So, health examinations should be mandatory for companies and businesses. For the safety of everyone, the companies should regularly check the health of their bus, taxi, and truck drivers. They should monitor the health of these people so that they can quickly remedy a situation. This helps avoid road casualties born from health disorders.
On the road, drivers will have to manage on their own. But employers can equip them with life-saving knowledge. For example, they can hold seminars and trainings for their drivers on the importance of regular exercise in their line of work. Sitting on the wheel for hours will take a toll on the body. And because the brain needs stimulation, miles of seeing the same empty stretch of road will also affect someone’s mind. The driver may start to experience hallucinations. It is good to train and inform your drivers on how to deal with long drives.
Living a healthy lifestyle will also improve the body’s health. In this occupation, people are extremely reliant on their health. A healthy body will improve the person’s chances of not developing debilitating lifestyle diseases and other issues that affect their performance. The person will also improve his concentration while driving, which would help reduce traffic accidents.
The following are samples of driver health questionnaires that you can use during pre-employment application and routine screening for your drivers.
Improving road safety will pay off in the long run. In 2010 alone, traffic accidents cost the country’s economy around $871 billion. The cost could have been allotted for education, health, and research programs. If we can make the roads safer by investing in drivers’ health and education, people will be less worried when their loved ones are on the road. Health should be a priority even though companies would want to sell. Companies should be diligent and earnest in their concern for their drivers’ wellness and well-being.
The vehicle choice of the individual matters because their physique and competencies influence their capacity to operate the vehicle. Small cars, like taxis and cabs, usually occupy densely populated areas. Meanwhile, huge trucks and trailers are the choice for long interstate journeys. Longer drives are physically and mentally straining. The driver should show fitness for such work. Driving through busy streets will require long patience. People with anger management issues aren’t exactly the best fit for that job.
When you make the questionnaires, you are going to need background knowledge of what can influence the drivers’ performance on the road. When you can’t hire help from people with a medical degree, you can perform extensive research on the risk factors that you should watch out for. This can include hypertension, impaired vision, and obesity. Your questionnaires should outline these factors so that the person filling in the form can conveniently check the ones that may apply to him or her.
You should also provide a list of tests that the person has to comply with for medical clearance. This can be for pre-employment or after the person has reported to be sick. The results of these medical tests will give an overview of the health and physique of a person. Having the list printed and ready to be referred to makes it easy for employers and the drivers to check the documents they lack.
You have to know if the driver is taking medication of any kind. Certain prescription medications may affect his or her capacity to drive a vehicle well. You also have to know if the person doesn’t have a drinking vice. Driving while inebriated has led thousands to their death, including those that were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Your company has to have a stern policy regarding alcohol consumption during work functions.
It seems as though we have accepted that death is a non-optional risk we take the moment we go out of our house. This shouldn’t be the norm. Policies and regulations for road safety won’t be as effective as expected when the people themselves do not impose discipline and practice responsible road behavior. In your industry, lives will be the price for errors and negligence. Employers and drivers are both responsible for making the roads a little safer for all.