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Road Safety: How to Avoid Fatigue


​Road Safety

Did you know that approximately 1,200 people are killed each year on Australia’s roads and about 40,000 are seriously injured. Even one death on our roads is one too many.

The leading causes of fatal road accidents are:

  • Speeding 31%;

  • Drugs or alcohol 37%;

  • Distractions 12%; and

  • Fatigue 11.2%



Driver fatigue or “drowsy driving” is the loss of driver attention from feeling sleepy or tired. There is a significant increase in the risk of you being involved in a crash if you are driving when tired or drowsy.

Fatigue can be caused by:

  • Being awake continuously for an extended period of time (more than 16 hours).

  • Lack of enough quality sleep.

  • Driving at times when you are normally asleep (12am–6am) or in the afternoon lull (1pm-4pm), when our biological time clock makes most of us feel sleepy.

  • Shift workers are six times more likely to be involved in a fatigue-related crash, particularly when travelling home from work.

  • Having a sleep disorder (i.e. sleep apnea).

  • Symptoms of sleep apnea include heavy snoring broken by sudden periods of silence, restless sleep and constantly being tired, experiencing micro sleeps.

Research indicates that going without sleep for 17 hours in a 24 hour period has as much as an effect on driving performance as a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of .05, which carries double the risk of a sober driver. Going without sleep for 24 hours has the same effect as a BAC of .1, which is double the legal BAC limit.


Tips on beating fatigue

Before driving:

  • Ensure you regularly get enough sleep (most people need 7-9 hours a day).

  • Know your body clock and when you feel most alert.

  • Plan your route before you go, map out rest stops, and let someone know your travel plans.

  • Don’t start a long trip after a long shift where possible.

  • Seek medical advice if you regularly feel sleepy or have noticed problems with your sleep. 

  • Don't drink alcohol before your trip. Even a small amount can contribute to driver fatigue.

  • Be aware of the effects of medications you are taking as some may increase drowsiness.

While driving:

  • Pull over and take a short nap (“powernap”) if tired.

    • Research shows that even a small sleep or powernap of 15-20 minutes can temporarily lessen the effects of fatigue for up to 1-2 hours.

    • Caffeine intake immediately prior to a 15-20 minute nap may provide additional benefits, as the alerting benefits of the caffeine will likely kick-in upon waking.

  • Take regular rest breaks of at least 15 minutes every two hours.

  • Where possible, drive for no more than eight hours within a 24 hour period.

  • Share driving on long trips if possible

Be alert to other road hazards

  • Look out for pedestrians and cyclists, ensure sufficient stopping distance.

  • Drive to the road conditions (i.e. speed, weather, visibility, traffic congestion).

  • Be alert and look out for wildlife.

  • Observe road sharing protocols.