Warning Signs – how to identify driver-fatigue before its too late.

Driver-fatigue is responsible for around 20% of fatal road accidents every year, and in severe single crashes in rural areas as much as 30% according to a study done by VicRoads – Road Accident Facts Victoria.

True Cost

In an Australian Federal Government inquiry – Beyond the Midnight Oil, Managing Fatigue in Transport – the cost of people not getting proper rest and being unfit behind the wheel as a direct result has translated into over $3 billion in managing driver-fatigue related road accidents every year.

Not All Designated Drivers are Created Equal

You may think that by opting for a non-alcoholic beverage and offering to drive at the end of the night you are qualified, but not all seemingly sober people are created equal.

Though appointing a DD is still advisable – the state of that person should be examined more closely – especially if they are staying up late waiting for the party to end whether they are drinking or not.

According to a study conducted by the Adelaide Centre for Sleep Research a person who has been awake for 17 hours is susceptible to the same crash risks as a person who has a BAC reading of 0.05g/100ml. Making them twice as likely to have an accident due to driver-fatigue than a person with zero blood alcohol content who is not fatigued.

Pulling an all-nighter due to studying or socializing, yet not imbibing does not deem you fit to drive – drivers who haven’t slept in 24 hours are seven times more likely to have an accident. Being awake for 24 hours causes the same impaired driving performance of a person who has a BAC of 0.1/100ml.

Know The Signs

Pay close attention to the warning signs of driver-fatigue and take precautionary measures before its too late –

  • Trouble concentrating and staying alert

  • Difficulty keeping eyes open

  • Yawning often

  • Burning sensation in eyes

  • Problems maintain steady vehicle speed

  • Difficulty in finding comfortable seated position

  • Slower reaction time

  • Difficulty keeping the vehicle on straight course

  • Memory lapses – unable to remember last few km’s driven

  • Hallucinations – seeing things that aren’t there – fog conditions or wildlife animals that aren’t there on long monotonous stretches of road

What To Do

At the first sings of driver-fatigue: pull the vehicle over at the next available safe place – this could be a designated rest area, a parking lot or any available area other than the shoulder of the road.

  • Take a break – stretch your legs, get out of the vehicle and walk around. This will restore your alertness for a short time.

  • Take a nap – for 15 minutes or so. This will help you feel rested longer and can help you safely continue your trip.

The above solutions do not take the place of a good night’s sleep but they can make all the difference in getting you safely to your destination while suffering from driver-fatigue.

Cranking the volume on the radio, guzzling coffee, rolling down all the windows and blasting the cold air to “wake up” are not effective. The use of the machines we use so often to get from place to place should be taken seriously – as they can become a lot more than methods of transportation – they can kill. Know the signs of driver-fatigue in others and yourself to help keep our roads safe.