PEOPLE are often unaware of the extent of driving impairment that results from being sleepy, says road safety expert Dr Vanessa Beanland, of the ANU Research School of Psychology, which researches road safety and driver behaviour.
In warning drivers to beware of the dangers of fatigue, she said: “Some research suggests that being awake for 17 hours produces equivalent impairment to a blood alcohol content of .05.
“If you are driving down the coast after a long day at work that is equivalent to driving with an illegal level of intoxication.”
The annual economic cost of road crashes in Australia is estimated at $27 billion. Driver sleepiness or fatigue is implicated in about 15-30 per cent of all crashes.
“Strategies like turning on the radio, turning on the air-conditioning do not work,” she said.
“The best approach is to stop and sleep. If this is not possible, drink a caffeinated drink and follow it with a 15-minute nap, not any longer because it becomes counterproductive.”
She said studies have found more than half of fatigue accidents happen on roads residential roads or roads with speed limits between 50kph and 80kph.
Sleep-related accidents are also more likely in the early afternoon, or between midnight and 6am.