Most people don’t realise it, but tired drivers are just as dangerous – if not more so – than those who are drunk or speeding.

According to Minister for Roads Duncan Gay, driver fatigue is one of the top three causes of road accidents in New South Wales. He added that road accidents involving sleepy drivers are two times more likely to be fatal than other road accidents.

The reason is simple: “You can’t brake while you’re asleep”.

In 2012, a total of 62 people died in fatigue-related road accidents across New South Wales. A further 1,959 people were injured. Mr Gay said the fatality rate for tired driving was actually higher than the fatality rate for drunk driving over this period.

“You might be a good driver, but your tired self isn’t. Do not trust them behind the wheel,” he announced.

Because this issue is so prevalent – and ultimately avoidable – the New South Wales government has launched a campaign titled “Don’t Trust Your Tired Self”, which aims to raise awareness about the dangers associated with getting behind the wheel when you’re tired.

What are the causes?

There are a number of factors that may cause fatigue. The Better Health Channel lists medical conditions, lifestyle habits (such as not getting enough or too much sleep, having a poor diet or drinking too much alcohol)  and emotional concerns or stress at the main reasons people suffer from tiredness.

In addition to this, attempting to drive or perform other tasks during times of the day and night when you’re body is programmed to be asleep can also trigger fatigue – and the consequences may be deadly.

What are the symptoms?

Some common symptoms of driver fatigue are yawning frequently, accidentally drifting into another lane, having sore eyes, experiencing delayed reactions, having trouble focusing and not being able to remember the last few kilometres, according to VicRoads.

It’s important that you’re able to recognise these symptoms and act on them early, as research shows that a person’s ability to make judgements declines rapidly the more tired they get. So, if you become too tired, you may not be able to make the right call about getting behind the wheel or not.

How can you prevent it?

There are a range of ways to prevent driver fatigue from causing you or other other road users from having a fatal accident.

– Drive an attention-powered vehicle

The Royal Automobile Club (RAC) of Western Australia has come up with an ingenious way to prevent tired drivers from getting into accidents.

It’s called the attention-powered vehicle, and it’s a world first. This vehicle comes with an Emotiv EEG neuro headset, which connects the driver’s brain activity with its engine.

When the neuro headset detects that the driver’s level of attention has dropped, it conveys this information to the engine, which causes the vehicle to slow down.

This shows the driver that they’re not concentrating on the road – whether due to fatigue or some other factor – and (hopefully) encourages them to pull over and take a break.

Dr Geoffrey Mackellar, Chief Technical Officer at research company Emotiv, said that it’s quite difficult to tell when a driver is concentrating and when they’re not.

He explained the neuro headset contains 14 sensors that measure activity in various regions of the brain, including the frontal, temporal, parietal and perceptual areas.

“The amount of activity in these areas registers what the driver is cognitively processing, or if they are zoning out,” revealed Dr Mackellar.

This cutting-edge technology was installed in a five-star ANCAP safety rated Hyundai i40 in September last year. RAC Executive General Manager Pat Walker said it was designed to “raise awareness about inattention, and to find possible solutions to try to help save lives on our roads”.

– Visit testyourselftired.com.au

If purchasing an attention-powered vehicle when and if they hit the market is beyond your budget, however, there are a number of other steps you can take to make sure fatigue doesn’t put your life in danger when you’re behind the wheel.

Transport for NSW, for instance, has recently developed a new website – testyourselftired.com.au – which provides drivers with the opportunity to find out how sleepy they are before they hit the road.

Mr Gay described the website as a fun and simple way to gauge your level of fatigue. It features a quick test that asks you a range of questions, challenges your memory and looks at your response to reactions.

When you’ve completed the test, you’ll be told whether you’re too tired to drive. If you are, this clever interface will provide you with some useful tips for how to combat your fatigue, such as taking a nap or going to bed early for a good night’s sleep.

You can access the website for free on laptop or desktop computer, as well as your mobile phone or tablet – so you can check how tired you are when you’re out and about, in the office or at home.

– Get a good night’s sleep

The average adult needs around eight hours of sleep each night. If you’re not getting this much, you might want to try some of the following.

– Make a sleep schedule and stick to it. If you always go to bed and wake up at the same time (even on the weekends), you may be able to get in-sync with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle.
– Try to avoid caffeine, alcohol and nicotine before you hit the hay, and don’t eat anything in the two or three hours preceding bedtime.
– Always sleep in a cool, dark environment that’s free from any distractions, such as your TV or computer.
– Get plenty of exercise, but avoid doing so in the three hours before you go to bed.

– Enrol in OHS training

Another way to make sure you’re clued-up on everything there is to know about driver fatigue is by getting in contact with AlertForce and signing up for our Driver Fatigue Management Training Course.

This is a quick course (it will take you around 18 minutes to complete, plus quizzes) and should provide you with a fantastic overview of the dangers associated with driver fatigue and how to prevent them.

You will learn all about the causes of fatigue, how it can affect your performance as a driver and your body clock, and you’ll look at some case studies of accidents that have occurred as a result of people getting behind the wheel tired.

In addition to this, you’ll be equipped with the skills and knowledge to effectively manage fatigue, so that you don’t become statistic.

For more information about this OHS training course, get in touch with the team at AlertForce today.