The summer break in Australia is one of the busiest times of the year for our roads, especially around the festive season, whether you are driving to see family, taking that summer vacation or maybe you are still on the job delivering festive goods across states. All road users have a responsibility to keep themselves and others safe. Especially at this time of year when more people are travelling long distances and often in areas which they are unfamiliar with.
What is fatigue?
Recent studies have found that fatigue is 4 times more likely to be the cause of road incidents than drugs or alcohol. Fatigue is the loss of alertness, which reduces driving performance and usually occurs because a driver is sleep-deprived or driving when they would normally be asleep. Behind the wheel, this can be fatal. From a slowed reaction time and a shorter attention capacity to less effective reasoning and decision making, if you are driving fatigued, you are placing yourself and other at risk.
The sobering statistics:
Across all states and territories, more people died in fatigue-related incidents than drink-driving and it is one of the top three killers on Australian roads. Since 1989, December has been the worst time of year for road trauma. Data from The Department of Infrastructure, Regional Infrastructure and Cities shows 9% of all road accidents between 1989 and 2017 have occurred in December. Over the 12-day festive period, the average number of road deaths for the last 5 years is 40 people (Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics)
However, the sad truth is that 24% of these road deaths are preventable; by making sure you or your drivers are ready and able to get behind the wheel. You can ensure their safety and the safety of those around by practicing fatigue management.
In the graph below from the RTA, one can see the type of vehicles involved in fatigue related crashes. Cars are the vehicles most likely to be involved in fatigue related crashes, however one can also see an emerging trend where there is an increase in fatigue related crashes involving Light Trucks.
What can businesses do about fatigue management?
Did you know that night shift workers are 6x more at risk of being involved in a fatigue related crash? Technology is available to assist drivers however, both employers and employees have a duty of care in relation to working hours under the OHS Act and associated regulations and codes of practice and can be fined for breaching the Act. The standards emphasise the importance of sleep and regulating work hours and rest.
If you are operating or managing vehicles at your workplace it is recommended that a fatigue policy should be put in place. This is an effective way to communicate the organisation or businesses’ procedure to drivers.
How can you avoid fatigue?
Taking steps to avoid fatigue before you get on the road is just as vital as knowing the signs of fatigue, these are the first steps in preventing a fatal incident. Fatigue symptoms include:
Unintentional speed changes
Loss of concentration
If you experience any of these symptoms while behind the wheel, then it is time to safely pull over in an appropriate area and recover. No amount of fresh air, caffeine or loud music can cure fatigue, only sleep can do that. Don’t trust your tired self.
Fatigue Prevention Steps
Plan your trip: The fastest route is not always the safest
Know where the rest stops along your route are
Ensure your vehicle is serviced and in good working order
Allow yourself plenty of time to arrive at your destination
It is recommended that you drive only 8-10 hrs per day with a break every 2 hours
Staying overnight mid-way through your journey is the safer option over continuing to drive into the night
Consult with your doctor about medications that cause drowsiness, these should be avoided if possible while travelling
Get plenty of sleep the night before: 7-8 hrs is recommended for adults
Developing good sleep habits helps ensure you prepared to drive at any time
Eat a balanced meal, keep hydrated and avoid alcohol
A balanced and healthy meal will deliver a slow burn of energy and provide important nutrients which can sustain you throughout the day
Alcohol is a depressant and can disrupt sleep and lower energy levels. Consuming alcohol the night before a long trip can be an act of self-sabotage and induce fatigue the next day
Take regular rest breaks
Take power naps if necessary (a short 20-minute nap can help combat drowsiness)
A short nap before commencing your journey can also be beneficial
Share the driving
Travelling in a group with many drivers reduces the number of vehicles on the road and ensures drivers can take good quality breaks throughout the journey
Have your passenger focus on directions and finding rest stops so you can focus on driving
How can technology help with fatigue management?
How can technology help in managing driver fatigue? Netstar’s Commercial Fleet Management solution aims at helping truck drivers mitigate the risk of fatigue through Alarm and Alert Management and Driver Behaviour Monitoring.
However, with new technology comes new opportunity in fatigue management and compliance for fleets. Whether you are driving a light truck or heavy vehicle Netstar’s Electronic Work Diary (EWD) helps with fatigue management and we are working with the NHVR to ensure our software is up to the highest standards of compliance.
Here at Netstar Australia, we want to make sure you get to where you’re going safely this festive season. The most important thing to remember on long road journeys, especially in the summer break, is to check in with yourself, be patient, stay calm, go slow and be mindful of changing road conditions.
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