Fatigue is often ranked as a major factor in accidents. In 20% of all crashes and 16% of all near crashes, the driver was showing fatigue. A study also revealed that 18- to 20-year-olds account for significantly more fatigue-related crashes than any other age group(1).
In commercial transportation, estimates suggest that fatigue is a factor in up to 30% of fatal crashes and 15% of serious injury crashes. Fatigue also contributes to approximately 25% of insurance losses in the heavy vehicle industry (2).
Driver fatigue is particularly dangerous because one of the symptoms is decreased ability to judge our own level of tiredness.
Fatigue is more likely to be a factor in crashes in rural areas as they can involve long trips and extensive periods of continuous driving, however anyone can be affected by fatigue.
Research has shown that not sleeping for more than 17 hours has an effect on driving ability the same as a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 0.05. Not sleeping for 24 hours has the same effect of having a BAC of 0.10!
The main causes of fatigue are:
- lack of quality sleep; sleeping disorders such as sleep apnoea
- time of day driving when you would normally be sleeping (eg 1am-6am) or in the afternoon period (eg 2pm-4pm) when our biological time clock makes us feel tired
- length of time driving