Driver fatigue is a significant problem for Canadian drivers, despite the fact that impaired and distracted driving receive the majority of public attention.  Many motor vehicle accidents, and resulting injuries and deaths, occur due to drowsy drivers.

According to Transport Canada, twenty percent of all fatal collisions in Canada are attributed to those driving while drowsy. 


Drowsiness while driving affects drivers in three ways:

  1. It slows reaction time.
  2. It decreases awareness:  When you are tired you are less likely to see the obstacles in your environment, such as pedestrians and cyclists.
  3. It impairs judgement:  Similar to the affects of alcohol, fatigue can impair a driver’s decision-making ability.

Research by Dr. Alistair MacLean of Queen’s University Department of Psychology found that adults who were severely fatigued made errors similar to those of impaired drivers.  The study found that adults who were awake for 18 ½ hours made driving errors comparable to those with a blood alcohol concentration of  0.05.  It was also found that adults who had been awake for 21 hours made errors similar to those with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08.

The best way to avoid a motor vehicle accident due to fatigue is to recognize the signs of weariness.  Some of the most common signs of fatigue include:

  • Tired or sore eyes;
  • Yawning;
  • Daydreaming;
  • Slow reactions;
  • Missing road signs;
  • Tailgating;
  • Irritability; and
  • Drifting into other lanes while driving.

Most fatigue-related accidents occur between the hours of 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and in the early morning hours between 2 a.m. to 5 a.m.  These types of accidents usually occur at higher speeds resulting in cars running off the road or colliding head-on with another vehicle or stationary object.


Drowsy driving is a long-standing road safety issue, especially for commercial truck drivers.  These drivers spend consecutive hours behind the wheel, sometimes even through the night.  They often face immense pressure to make their deliveries on time. 

Driving a commercial vehicle while drowsy is especially dangerous as these types of vehicles require more time to come to a stop and can cause more damage in an accident.

Last year the federal government announced new measures to tackle driver fatigue for commercial and bus drivers.  In an effort to ensure that drivers comply with the hours of service regulations and more specifically to reduce driver fatigue, by June 2021 drivers of all federally regulated commercial trucks and buses will be required to use electronic logging devices instead of paper ones.  Transport Canada estimates that the electronic logging devices will reduce the risk of driver fatigue-related accidents by an estimated 10 percent.

Under the current regulations, drivers can only accrue 13 hours behind the wheel a day.  A driver must also remain off-duty for at least eight consecutive hours before returning to the road.

The third-party certified electronic logging devices will track when and how long a driver has been driving to ensure that he/she is  working within their limits and accurately logging their work hours.  The devices are tamper-resistant and integrated into the commercial vehicle engines.

According to the Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transportation: 

These new mandatory logging devices in commercial vehicles will improve safety for drivers and for all Canadians.  Collaboration with stakeholders and partners was key to putting these regulations in place. … We know that fatigue increases the risks of accidents and that is why we are taking action across all modes of transportation.


The legal team at Cuming & Gillespie LLP wants to encourage safe and responsible driving at all times and provides the following helpful tips to avoid driver fatigue:

  1. Drive only when rested (seven hours of sleep is recommended);
  2. Do not ignore the symptoms of sleepiness (i.e. yawning, trouble focusing, willing yourself to stay away);
  3. Travel at times when you are normally awake, especially avoid driving between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. (the time of day with the greatest danger for sleep-related accidents);
  4. Keep your mind alert;
  5. Schedule breaks at least every two hours or 200 kilometres;
  6. Travel with an alert passenger and take turns driving;
  7. Find a safe place to stop and rest if you begin to feel drowsy;
  8. Avoid medications that cause drowsiness or any other impairments;
  9. Avoid sugary and fatty foods and drinks and opt instead for water and high protein snacks; and
  10. Always drive defensively.

Cuming & Gillespie LLP wishes everyone a happy, healthy and safe summer and wants to remind everyone that we are available should anything go wrong.  If you or someone you love has suffered a serious personal injury or been involved in a motor vehicle accident resulting in personal injuries this summer, contact our experienced personal injury lawyers at our office online or at 403-571-0555 for a free consultation.  We look forward to helping you obtain the compensation that you deserve.