Fatigue is estimated to be a contributing factor in approximately 30% of fatal crashes and up to 15% of serious injuries. It also represents significant social and economic costs to the community in relation to road crashes.
Driver fatigue can be just as deadly as drink driving or speeding.
The problem with fatigue is that it slowly develops and drivers often don't realise they're too tired to drive safely.
So if you're on a long journey, it's important to take a break every two hours to prevent fatigue, even if you're not feeling tired.
There are two types of fatigue:
Occurs when a person becomes tired or fatigued after driving for two hours without a break. For example, when taking a long drive to a holiday destination.
Driving Whilst Fatigued:
Occurs when a person drives after being awake for 17+ hours. For example, shift workers or people with busy, stressful lives.
Fatigue can develop as a result of any of the following:
- Working long hours
- Getting poor sleep
- Driving for too long and not taking breaks
- Getting less than normal sleep
- Insufficiently resting prior to driving
- Driving home late at night
- Driving when you would normally be sleeping
- Driving while tired
Fatigue-related crashes are often more severe as driver reaction times are delayed. People may be slow to notice danger and when they do, slow to react. This generally includes: single vehicle crashes in which the vehicle drifts off the road; and multi-vehicle crashes in which a head-on collision occurs when the vehicle drifts onto the wrong side of the road.
Fatigue related crashes are often on open roads at high speeds and occur during the hours of 1pm-3pm and 2am-6am, with a higher incidence on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Did you know that fatigue could have the same effect as drink driving?
Driving after being awake for 17-19 hours is equivalent to driving with a BAC of approximately 0.05%. At this level, the risk of a crash is double than with a BAC of zero. Driving after 24-27 hours is equivalent to driving with a BAC of around 0.1%. At 0.1%, the risk of a crash is seven times greater than driving with a BAC of zero.
Prevent Fatigue. Rest every two hours when driving.
There are a number of simple ways to avoid driver fatigue:
- Plan your trip with a good night's sleep (7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep) the night before.
- Plan not to travel for more than 8-10 hours in any one day. The longer you drive the more you must fight fatigue.
- Plan your trip to include regular breaks every two hours for 15 minutes or more.
- Plan to start your trip early in the day and try not to drive into the night.
- Don't push yourself.
- When you stop, get out of the car, stretch and walk around for a while or have a nap.
- Don't rely on coffee and energy drinks. Water will keep you hydrated.
- Share the driving if you can. Passengers can tell you if you are looking tired or showing signs of tiredness. Driving with a friend can also make it a more enjoyable trip.
- Don't overeat.
- Don't drink alcohol before driving or during rest breaks. Alcohol can make you feel tired more quickly, as well as putting you at risk of being over the legal limit.
- Check the labels on prescription medicines that may affect your alertness or cause drowsiness. If this is the case, contact your pharmacist or local GP for advice.
If you rest every two hours for at least 15 minutes driver fatigue can be avoided and you will have a safer, more enjoyable trip.
In launching its latest road safety message, Fatigue: Refresh your drive, MAC is encouraging drivers to rest every two hours to prevent the onset of driver fatigue.
MAC General Manager Road Safety, Michael Cornish said that with fatigue estimated to be a contributing factor in 20%-30% of fatal and 15% of serious injury crashes, MAC’s Fatigue: Refresh your drive message provides drivers with a practical instruction to stay safe behind the wheel.
“Fatigue severely affects reaction times, concentration and the decision-making skills that are critical to driving safely,” Mr Cornish said.
“We have deliberately timed this new message launch to coincide with Easter as this is the time of year many families travel on unfamiliar roads, at higher speeds and for longer periods – increasing their crash risk and placing enormous stress on emergency service workers who have to respond.”
CFS Deputy Chief Officer, Andrew Lawson said that it may come as a surprise to many that a large proportion of the hours committed by CFS volunteers are spent attending motor vehicle crashes.
“Last financial year, CFS volunteers contributed 690,000 hours in emergency response time to South Australian communities. This included attending 2,258 vehicle related incidents,” Mr Lawson said.
“Fatigue related crashes tend to be more severe, typically involve high speeds and cause significant distress to the volunteers that are required to attend these crash scenes.”
The Fatigue: Refresh your drive message focuses on the benefits of resting every two hours, as opposed to previous fatigue messaging which focused on the negative aspects of ignoring the fatigue warning signs.
“Driving whilst fatigued can be as dangerous as driving drunk – with both activities affecting a driver’s ability to react. In fact driving fatigued can have the same shattering affect as driving with a BAC of 0.05,” Mr Cornish said.
The Fatigue: Refresh your drive message will feature across the MAC’s regional billboard network (52 billboard location across South Australia), on the regional intrastate bus fleet and will be supported by radio advertising.