The priority research topic for the inaugural cycle of the AAA Road Safety Research Program is fatigued driving. Fatigue is a major cause of road crashes, related injuries and fatalities worldwide. It is believed that 20 to 30 per cent of all car crashes in Australia are attributable to fatigue. Research indicates that the need for drivers and transport managers to understand and tackle fatigued driving is greater than ever.
Fatigue is a more complex concept than just being ‘sleepy’. While the effects of sleep (or lack of it) are a key component, fatigue is a broader phenomenon. It can be influenced by a person’s rest and sleep habits and cycles, their physiological and psychological traits, as well as their environmental conditions.
Fatigue can reduce attentiveness, slow a driver’s reaction times and affect judgement – all of which can result in catastrophic consequences. In fact, research has shown after 17-19 hours without sleep, driver performance is equivalent to or worse than having a blood alcohol concentration level of 0.05 per cent. If a driver falls asleep for just four seconds while travelling at 100 km/h, the car will have travelled 111 metres without their control.
Fatigued driving is a major challenge for road safety. Fatigue can affect all types and levels of drivers and fatigue-related crashes can happen on any trip – no matter how long or short the trip is or what time of day it is. The AAA Road Safety Research Program will use quality, applied research activities to better understand fatigued driving and develop effective ways to address this problem.
The inaugural stakeholder forum was attended by industry, state and federal government representatives, emergency services, road safety experts and academics in Sydney on the 25th of November 2019. The forum enabled participants to have in-depth discussions and form collaborations which resulted in the development of several well- considered areas for research into fatigued driving.