Driver Fatigue is a Major Killer on the Roads

November 12, 2012

Driver Fatigue is a Major Killer on the Roads

Fatigue is rated as one of the major reasons for the cause of car crashes. It is very difficult to measure cases where driver fatigue has been the cause as many people do not report this as the reason for the crash.

There is data available which suggests driver fatigue is the cause of 30% of fatal car crashes and 15% experiencing serious injury due to a car crashing on the road. Fatigue is also the main contributor in the heavy vehicle industry of approximately 25% of insurance losses. When analysis of car crashes was carried out in South Australia it showed that approximately 14% of the car crashes were more than likely the result of driver fatigue. On average there were 17 fatalities and 125 people suffered serious injuries in a one year period. All of these injuries and fatalities were caused by fatigue.

Driver fatigue is extremely dangerous because one of the symptoms is not being able to gauge the level of tiredness we are experiencing. Car crashes in country areas are more often than not caused by fatigue. Living in a rural area can involve long and continuous driving. But all drivers should be aware of the effect of fatigue when driving.

There is research available which shows that not having slept for a period of 17 hours affects drivers in the same way as a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) of 0.05. And not having slept for 24 hours affects driving ability and has the effect as driving with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.10 which is double the legal limit. By not sleeping there is an increased risk of a crash which is connected to driver fatigue.

There are various reasons for fatigue occurring and some of them include not having enough hours of good quality sleep, driving when it is normally time for sleeping and the disorder sleep apnea.

The signs and symptoms of fatigue are as follows:

  • Yawning constantly

  • Sore eyes

  • Daydreaming

  • The vehicle is drifting over traffic lanes

  • Difficulty in keeping your head up

  • Delayed reactions

  • Variations in the driving speed

  • Not being able to remember driving the last couple of kilometers

When driving and feeling tired, it is crucial to pull over somewhere safe and have a power nap. Once fatigue has set in it is essential to take a break from driving and rest.

If no rest or sleep is taken microsleeps may occur and these are extremely dangerous. Indications and signs of microsleeps are when a person nods off unintentionally for seconds or even several minutes. It can also show as loss of attention, staring vacantly and the head may snap upright.

A driver who has had 4 seconds of microsleep in a car which is moving at 100km/h will travel 111m with no control whatsoever from the driver.

Microsleeps normally happen when a person would be sleeping or if they are tired and forcing themselves to be awake.

To avoid driver fatigue:

  • Have 8 hours of good quality sleep before travelling

  • Try to avoid a trip after working

  • If possible travel no more than 10 hours per day

  • Every two hours take a 15 minute break by getting out of the vehicle and take a walk

  • If it is possible drive share and ask any passengers to keep a look out for signs of fatigue in the driver.

  • Eat a healthy meal at normal eating times and keep away from fatty foods as they can make a person feel drowsy.

  • Don’t take any medication which may cause drowsiness and avoid alcohol

  • If you can, avoid doing the driving at night as the risks of a crash are increased later at night and in the early morning.

  • To prevent driver fatigue take a rest

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