Managing Risks of Driver Fatigue

Driver Fatigue is an important cause of road crashes.

Driver fatigue is very dangerous condition created when a person is suffering symptoms of fatigue while driving, often resulting from the hypnotic (Inducing sleep; soporific or hypnosis) effect especially during nighttime (peak levels at night can be 10 times daytime levels) driving either falling asleep at the wheel or so exhausted they made serious – and fatal – driving errors.

A  survey in 1994, based on coronial and police reports found that fatigue played a part in about 18 per cent of fatal crashes. It included not only those crashes in which police identified fatigue as a cause, but also cases where the crash description suggested ‘loss of concentration’ had been a contributing factor.  A third review found that around 30 per cent of rural crashes in Western Australia could be attributed to fatigue.  Fatigue is a major cause of crashes in Victoria resulting in some 70 deaths and approximately 500 serious injuries each year. Recently research shows fatigue is a contributing factor in around 20-25 per cent of all fatal car accidents in Victoria.

The early hours of the morning and the middle of the afternoon are the peak times for fatigue accidents. Also long journeys on monotonous roads, such as motorways, are the most likely to result in a driver falling asleep. Recent research also shows the grogginess right after you wake up can also be dangerous.

Therefore there is a strong possibility that the driver fall asleep and run off the road. Tiredness and fatigue can often affect your driving ability long before you even notice you’re getting tired. Fatigue related crashes are often more severe than others because driver’s reaction times are delayed or they have failed to make any manoeuvres to avoid a crash. Symptoms of driver fatigue include heavy eyelids, frequent yawning, a drifting vehicle that wanders over road lines, varying vehicle speed for no reason, misjudging traffic situations, and seeing things “jump out” in the road, feeling fidgety or irritable and daydreaming.

Drivers who do not take frequent rest stops have slower reactions than those who break up long journeys. This means at least every 90 minutes take a break. Easier said than done!

People run a higher risk of succumbing to driver fatigue between 2am and 6am and during what is known as the “2pm slump”. Studies show the number of accidents increase according to the time of day and the number of hours driven. High risk occupations include night-shift workers, airline crew, students, commercial drivers, medical staff, sales representatives and journalists.

A study conducted by the Adelaide Centre for Sleep Research shown that drivers who have been awake for 24 hours have an equivalent driving performance to a person who has a BAC (blood alcohol content) of 0.1 g/100ml, and is seven times more likely to have an accident.

Reducing the Risks of Fatigue causing accidents

Signs of Fatigue to look out for