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The risks of driver fatigue

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Did you know that being awake for 14 hours carries the same risk of crashing as a 0.05 level of blood alcohol concentration (i.e. twice the normal risk)?

And that 10 to 20% of the road crashes are (partly) due to driving fatigue?

Driving fatigue is a major road safety problem worldwide. Therefore, ESRA (E-Survey of Road users’ Attitudes) developed a survey to collect data from 48 countries to better understand this issue. Young drivers, professional drivers and shift workers have to cope with fatigued driving on a regular basis due to their work-life balance. Research has discovered that around 50% of all professional drivers have less than normal sleep time before they undertake a long-distance trip. The results of the ESRA survey pointed out that in more than half of the participating countries, 15 to 25% of the car drivers reported driving while having trouble keeping their eyes open in the past 30 days. Shocking results, if you know that the same survey, and thus with the same participants, revealed that less than 3% of the road users perceived fatigued driving as personally acceptable. 

The motives for driving fatigued can vary. In the results of ESRA, we discover that male drivers and young drivers are more likely to drive fatigued. People from countries with a stern work ethic, such as Japan and the Republic of Korea, also have an increased risk of causing a crash due to a lack of sleep.

In Europe, drivers in Austria, Iceland, Finland and Greece have the highest odds for self-declared fatigued driving. However, due to the use of a self-report, the high numbers can also mean that these drivers pay more attention to their personal behaviour.

Drivers try to compensate for the influence of fatigue by increasing the task demands or by lowering them. However, compensatory strategies are not sufficient to remove all risks. Automatic in-vehicle and third party detection and warning systems may be possibilities for the future. Nevertheless, these systems can only partly help to eliminate the danger. The power is still in the hands of the driver.

Taking a long break while enjoying a coffee can save lives.

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