Driver Impairments

When we think of impairments our mind tends to think about alcohol or drugs and how it affects us, especially while driving. As most – if not all – people know that driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs is strictly prohibited and is quite dangerous, but there can be another impairment that some people fail to realize is dangerous. Actually, there are multiple impairments that can seriously affect your ability to drive safely. Let’s take a look.

As drivers, we can also be impaired by emotions, fatigue, medication, injuries and illness. Each of those can impair your ability to focus on the driving task. They stop you from focusing on the driving task. There are corrective measures we can do to help us stay alert behind the wheel, such as reading the label on the medication to determine if driving is wise. If your injury is severe enough that you should not drive, then don’t. Fatigue is a mental condition that affects your decision-making and reaction time. The best solution is to get plenty of rest. Cold air and coffee are only short-term solutions. One of the most common forms of impairment that may be ignored is your emotions. For many drivers, their emotions control them and their actions, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

When your emotions get the better of you, it can seriously affect your thought process when you’re behind the wheel. A standard dictionary definition of impaired is “To make worse by lessening strength, value, quality or quantity; to damage.” When your focus to driving is lessened because of your emotions, you’re still impaired. It may not be classified as the traditional impairments, but it is an impairment none-the-less which can affect your safety and the safety of those around you.

Impairments affect your reaction time, judgement and co-ordination. This includes any impairment, not just alcohol and drugs. Think about it; when your thoughts regarding driving are replaced with thoughts of frustration, anger, fear, stress or any other emotions, you’re failing to think about the driving task. As a professional driver, you know just how quickly things can escalate while traveling on public roads, so removing your thoughts from driving, even for 3 or 4 seconds can become deadly.

As a professional driver you’re used to steering, braking and accelerating smoothly in order to keep your vehicle under complete control. These skills become habitual. But what if you’re angry, frustrated, dreaming of your upcoming vacation or having a heated conversation in the vehicle with a passenger? Your mind is now on this emotional distraction and not on the driving task. Your thoughts are now impaired. The problem is, if a pedestrian happens to step out between two vehicles you won’t necessarily see them or respond to them in time. This is because your mind is on the distraction and not on the driving task. You’re impaired.

If you’re feeling emotional, take a deep breath and ask yourself how the situation really does affect you. In most cases, it doesn’t affect you whatsoever. It was just a few moments of something negative that you had to deal with. Now it’s over. Get over it and get back to work focusing on the driving task. You owe it to yourself.

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