Fatigued Driving as Dangerous as Drink Driving, study claims

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Would you ever go to a party, get drunk and then get behind the wheel of a truck? No of course not, then why is it so easy for us to do so while fatigued?

Experts have long warned of the effects of fatigued driving and a study has now proven that truckies who drive through the night are at an equal risk of an accident as a drink-driver. The study was conducted by collaborating with truck drivers in both New South Wales and Western Australia.

Long haul truck drivers should pay particular attention to fatigue rules because the study shows that these drivers pose the greatest accident risk among the profession.

The risk is created by the fact that long haul truck drivers work late nights and irregular hours which makes them 3 times more likely to get into an accident.

According to the study which was conducted by Monash University and the results published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, people who work during the midnight to dawn shifts, with few breaks (as long haul truck drivers do) are at an equal risk of crashing as mid-range drink-drivers.

The Risk is Greater to Long-Distance Drivers

According to the study long distance drivers who drive for more than 3 hours a night can make the same mistakes as those people who drive with a blood alcohol reading of 0.08 – this is above the legal driving limit.

Operators should also consider the benefits of installing braking technology and other safety technologies on their fleets, because as the study shows, those truckies who drive vehicles with anti-locking braking systems and cruise control are less likely to crash than those without these systems.

Another risk factor is travelling with an empty load in an articulated truck was associated with an almost 2 fold increased risk of having a crash.

More about the Research

Truck drivers at rest stops in New South Wales and Western Australia who participated in the study answered questions on sleep, driving and lifestyle habits and were monitored for one night as they slept. They wore a sleep monitor for the night.

The study also revealed that those drivers who had been involved in a crash were more likely to use caffeinated drinks like coffee to stay awake and most had less than 10 years of driving experience.

Police in both NSW and WA informed the team conducting the research of 895 crashes that were recorded during a period. More than half of those drivers participated in the study.

In NSW the 3 big killers on the road are speed, drinking and fatigue. So if you wouldn’t consider speeding or drink driving, remember that fatigued driving is just as dangerous.

The NSW Road Safety Authority has launched a website to help people gage whether they are fit enough to drive or not. Visit the website at https://www.testyourtiredself.com.au/

Managing Fatigue

The fatigue laws address work and rest hours, work diaries, fatigue management accreditation schemes and chain of responsibility.

Demerit point offences and fines are in force for drivers of fatigue regulated heavy vehicles who commit work diary and/or work/rest driving-hour breaches however the risks are far more serious than simply fines and demerits. Fatigued drivers can cause crashes in which they could not only lose their lives but cause the deaths of other innocent road users.

Over time, drivers will become aware of what to do and what to avoid when they are undertaking a long journey or working late shifts. And most experienced drivers will tell you that nothing beats preparation when it comes to managing fatigue.

  • Prepare for a long distance drive by having enough sleep the night before. Try to get at least 8 hours and avoid having late nights as much as possible. Also try to have a regular sleeping pattern because an erratic sleeping pattern means you feel tired and different times of the day and this could happen while you’re driving.
  • Also remember that driving at night, in the dark also presents its risks. The glare of the lights may cause a hypnosis sensation to come over you and also causes your body’s internal clock to be affected negatively.
  • Keep your body involved in the driving by not using cruise control. Driving with little interaction will allow your body to relax and start to feel tired.
  • Also ensure that you have good posture and are in an upright position. Don’t recline your seat to far back or get too comfortable where you begin to fall asleep.
  • Do not neglect to stop every 2 hours and walk around or get some sort of exercise to stave of the fatigue.
  • Remember to eat a snack on the journey but don’t eat big, heavy meals which can make you feel fatigued.

Ensure that you and all those involved in the supply chain have completed Chain of Responsibility training to ensure that they are aware of their duties under the law.

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