Driving Tired Costs Lives

A truck driver follows a route on his phone's map

According to the Australian Road Safety Commission, fatigue could be responsible for up to 30% of all road deaths every year, and an even greater proportion of serious injury crashes.

Most of these events are single-vehicle crashes, which include run-off road incidents. Driving an unfamiliar vehicle like a rental truck adds to the risk, especially if you are tired or stressed. 

As at November 2017, almost 1000 people have died in road traffic accidents nationwide, and we at Rentco want to make sure you don’t become a statistic because you got behind the wheel when you were tired.

The risks

Road crashes have often nothing to do with driving proficiency. Many fatal or serious incidents are caused by fatigue, and that can be linked to a person’s lifestyle and their sleeping patterns. 

Taking commonly available medications that make you drowsy like anti-histamines increases your risk of being involved in a road crash with fatal or life-changing consequences.

An individual’s ‘alert’ levels are lowest between 10pm and 6am because this is generally when we are in our deepest sleep pattern.

Studies show the time of day or night can dramatically affect a person’s driving ability and in turn results in a significant increase in fatigue-related crashes.

For example, driving a hire truck after being awake for 17 hours is comparable with driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.05. almost doubling the risk of accident. Driving this tired seriously affects your reaction time, putting you and other road users at risk.

Who are the risk takers?

People most at risk are younger drivers who think they are bulletproof; shift workers (including truck drivers) who think they’ve adapted; and anyone with a sleep disorder who generally just isn’t getting enough sleep. 

Statistics show that adults between 18-29 are more likely to drive while drowsy compared to other age groups. Men are more likely than women to drive while drowsy and are almost twice as likely to fall asleep at the wheel.

The subtle signs of sleepiness

After being awake more than 17 hours, the metabolic activity in your brain slows down.  It’s a fact with truck-loads of research to support it.  The areas of the brain which are most affected are the parts that control judgment, attention and visual function. The danger signs to watch out for are:

  • Wandering or drifting out of your lane
  • Unintentional changes in speed
  • Yawning, drowsiness, heavy-feeling eyelids, microsleep, suddenly realising you’ve nodded off
  • Loss of concentration when you realise you’re not following a conversation.

Driving tired is a common cause of run-off road crashes.  Other examples are drifting and ploughing into a stationary vehicle at the side of the road or not realising the vehicle in front of you has braked and running into the back of it.

The solution

The obvious answer sleep is the only cure, but if you notice any of the above symptoms, take action and stop.  Nothing is worth putting yourself or other road users at risk. Take frequent breaks when driving, especially during high-risk times.

We recommend that drivers stop every 2 hours, have a comfort break, stretch and get some fresh air. Share the driving with passengers if possible, especially on long trips and try not to drive more than 8 to 10 hours every day.