It is well documented that fatigue can cause exaggerated symptoms of delirium, confusion and forgetfulness. Driving while fatigued has been likened to driving while intoxicated. Many tests have revealed that driving after 18 hours awake can result in decreased reaction times, blurred vision and difficulty concentrating behind the wheel.
It stands to reason that the one profession most profoundly affected by fatigue behind the wheel would be law enforcement. Many members of law enforcement are forced to work double shifts. Some investigators have been known to stay awake for days trailing clues and leads related to the latest California crime spree.
The California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training has taken a proactive approach to hopefully lessening the affects of fatigue on the roadways and is targeting law enforcement officers for a study designed to examine fatigued and distracted driving.
The study, slated to last two years, will explore many facets of fatigued and distracted driving as they affect police officers. Collisions risks will be compared between day shift and night shift officers. The study is headed by Washington State University Criminal Justice professor Brian Vila. Vila, who has been studying police automobile fatalities and career-ending accidents for thirteen years, reports that California law enforcement reports rising rates of serious collisions, injuries and fatalities while the overall state average has actually declined.
The study will take a high-tech approach to learning about fatigued driving. Test subjects will have their eyes measured and recorded while “driving” in a simulated California patrol car or police vehicle. Eye-tracking devices will be able to measure distraction and reaction times to various faux roadway hazards. The study will target officers both at the end of a long shift and at the end of a three-day rest period.
Vila cites excessive speeding and failure to yield as the most common reasons for law enforcement-related automobile fatalities and injuries. He also reminds Californians that police are more likely to die in automobile accidents while on duty than shootouts and dealings with armed criminals.
Attorney Emery Brett Ledger likes nothing more than to see motorists reduce distractions and hindrances behind the wheel. With the onslaught of handheld devices available to California motorists, personal injury attorneys like Ledger are seeing more and more injuries occurring due to distracted driving. Fatigued driving has also been a problem facing California motorists for many decades, especially those that must be behind the wheel as part of their employment.
Its great to see law enforcement taking a proactive approach towards lessening the occurrence of fatal and severe roadway injuries. Law enforcement is in a position to lead by example. Perhaps if more law enforcement officers choose not to drive while fatigued, more Californians will follow suit and find alternative means of travel if significantly fatigued.