Fatigue is often referred to as the hidden killer because many drivers are unaware they are experiencing its effects until it is too late.
Fatigue is a major contributing factor to fatal road crashes, but the exact number of crashes involving fatigue may currently be under-reported (Queensland Transport 2006, p10 and 2008, p17).International research suggests that between 15-30% of all road crashes are caused by drivers falling asleep behind the wheel (Lindheim 2008, p34).
High-risk times for fatigue-related crashes appear to be mid-afternoon and between midnight and dawn. Driving on less than five hours’ sleep in the previous 24 hours raises the risk of having a crash threefold (Connor et al. 2002).
Driver fatigue is a major safety issue on Queensland’s roads. This episode of RACQ TV explores the dangers of driving tired.
While fatigue management programs, driving hour restrictions and chain of responsibility legislation have been introduced to address fatigue problems in the heavy vehicle industry, fatigue is particularly difficult to detect and enforce for the private driver.
The ways in which a driver can be monitored and warned of the onset of fatigue are continually being researched and developed. However, until there is widespread availability of reliable technology that enables a driver impaired by fatigue to be alerted and/or detected, public education and advertising campaigns will continue to be necessary to make drivers of all vehicles aware of the dangers and early warning signs of fatigue and what they can do to minimise their risks of driving while tired.
Other current and past measures used in Queensland to combat fatigue-related crashes include education and advertising campaigns, engineering approaches such as adding rest areas, rumble strips, road duplication, crash barriers, audio-tactile line-marking and better road shoulders, the driver reviver program and fatigue management programs for heavy vehicle drivers.
It is important to keep in mind that many of these measures only help reduce the risk of having a fatigue-related crash. There needs to be a conscious effort to address the core problem i.e., that quality sleep remains the only real cure or preventative measure for fatigue.
The best way to avoid fatigue crashes is to PLAN:
Australian Transport Council 2008, National Road Safety Action Plan 2009 and 2010, Australian Transport Council, Canberra, ACT, Australia.
Connor, J., Norton, R., Ameratunga, S., Robinson, E., Civil, I., Dunn, R., Bailey, J., and Jackson, R. 2002, ‘Driver sleepiness and risk of serious injury to car occupants; population based case control study’, British Medical Journal, Vol. 324: 1125.
Data Analysis Unit 2009, Personal Correspondence to RACQ, 03/06/09, Queensland Transport, Brisbane, QLD, Australia.
Green, M. 2008, ‘Fatigue in Traffic’ from Green, M. (Ed), Nordic Road and Transport Research No. 2 2008, VTI, Linköping, Sweden.
Lindheim, C.W., 2008, ‘Traffic Safety Campaigns in Norway’ from Green, M. (Ed), Nordic Road and Transport Research No. 2 2008, VTI, Linköping, Sweden.
Queensland Transport 2006, Queensland Road Safety Action Plan 2006-2007: safe4life, Queensland Government, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.
Queensland Transport 2008, Queensland Road Safety Action Plan 2008-2009: safe4life, Queensland Government, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.