Fatigue test trial to commence in Victoria

Fatigue test trial to commence in Victoria

In March 2019, Prime Mover magazine published an article on an Australian-first trial of new technology designed to detect fatigued drivers.

The trials are scheduled to take place at a controlled test facility in Kilsyth, Victoria.  Drivers will be kept awake for up to 32 hours before conducting a two-hour drive on a controlled track, supervised by a qualified instructor in a dual control vehicle.

The study will test drivers before and after their drive to measure involuntary eye movements, a symptom which has been strongly linked to increasing levels of fatigue.

The project is part of an $850,000 investment by the Victorian Government to see if roadside testing for extreme fatigue can be conducted in a similar way to roadside alcohol and drug testing.

VicRoads is leading the study and is working closely with Monash University, the Transport Accident Commission, Victoria Police and the Alertness CRC.

Given that ‘drowsy driving’ is a contributing factor in between 16-20% of all road crashes in Victoria, it’s important for drivers to understand the impact of driving tired.

You wouldn’t drink drive so why risk driving tired?

When asked responsible drivers say they would not risk hopping behind the wheel of a car or truck after they had been drinking.  Many of them are unaware that driving tired can be equally risky.

The Adelaide Centre for Sleep Research has been working with industry, to develop fatigue modelling software package which can be used when people are organising shifts and rosters.

They have identified the connection between the effects of tiredness and alcohol impairment.  It’s frightening to think that driving if you have been awake for 17 hours, can affect your reaction time and impair your driving ability equivalent to driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.05 per cent.

Understanding the risk

People are pre-programed to be alert or drowsy at certain times of the daily cycle.  For most, we are fast asleep when the biggest dip in energy occurs in the middle of the night between 2:00am and 4:00am.   For shift workers or people who are sleep deprived this dip puts them at higher risk. The other danger time is just after lunchtime from 1:00pm to 3:00pm, when its common for people to crave a post-lunch nap.  

Driving tired is dangerous and potentially deadly.  

Experts say that if you're already behind the wheel when you start to feel drowsy, the best course of action is to pull over and take a 15 minute powernap.  It may be tempting to try and push on to get to your destination, but the reality is you can't fight sleep. Driving tired costs lives.