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Tired drivers in the spotlight

14 December 2007 Media Statement

Tired drivers in the spotlight

A new inter-agency strategy to combat the issue of driver fatigue was announced today by Transport Safety Minister Harry Duynhoven.

“Driver fatigue is a serious road safety issue in New Zealand and was a contributing factor to more than 40 deaths and nearly 1000 injuries in road crashes last year.

“Crashes involving driver fatigue are often the most violent on the road as they occur when people have fallen asleep or react too late to brake or avoid an impending crash. This strategy is aimed at saving lives and reducing injuries by preventing these crashes,” said Mr Duynhoven.

The strategy has been developed at the request of the National Road Safety Committee by the Ministry of Transport, New Zealand Police, Land Transport NZ, Transit New Zealand, ACC and the Department of Labour.

“The new strategy will ensure that there is a collaborative approach to future policy initiatives, promotion and delivery of driver fatigue countermeasures within and between agencies in the wider transport sector.

“It will include the use of high profile television advertising urging New Zealanders to wake up to the warning signs of driver fatigue,” said Mr Duynhoven.

While the issue of driver fatigue has been targeted with advertising previously in New Zealand, the new campaign is the first to use high profile television ads to raise awareness of the risks of driving tired. The new ads go to air this Sunday, 16 December.

The new campaign asks drivers to recognise the symptoms of fatigue and illustrates the potentially deadly consequences of not acknowledging the warning signs.

“This campaign is timed to coincide with the Christmas/New Year holiday period when large numbers of people will be on the road and are often making long journeys. If people can recognise the signs of oncoming fatigue they can then take action, such as pulling over for a 20 minute power nap, getting someone who is not tired to drive or just breaking their journey, “said Mr Duynhoven today.

The ads are scheduled to run through the Christmas/New Year holiday period and again over Easter 2008. To view the Interagency Strategy to Combat Driver Fatigue, go to www.transport.govt.nz.
Contact: Shelley Tucker, Private Secretary, 04 471 9802/ 021 682 705 or Andy Knackstedt, Land transport New Zealand, 04 931 8829/ 021 2763222


Driver Fatigue

Questions and Answers


1. What is driver fatigue?

People often think that driver fatigue means falling asleep at the wheel. Falling asleep, however, is an extreme form of fatigue.
Fatigue is tiredness, weariness or exhaustion. You can be fatigued enough for it to impair your driving long before you 'nod off' at the wheel. For example, when you are fatigued:
• your reactions are much slower;
• your ability to concentrate is reduced;
• it takes longer to interpret and understand the traffic situation.

Fatigue-related crashes are often more severe than other crashes as drivers’ reaction times are often delayed or drivers have not employed any crash avoidance manoeuvres. Fatigue can also combine with other factors, such as alcohol or speed, to cause road crashes.


2. What are the warning signs of driver fatigue?

There are several signs that will tell you that you are fatigued when driving, these include:

• Blinking or yawning frequently;
• Having trouble keeping your head up;
• Eyes closing for a moment or going out of focus;
• Having wandering or disconnected thoughts;
• Finding you’ve slowed unintentionally;
• Braking too late;
• Not being able to remember driving the last few kilometres;
• Drifting over the centre line or onto the other side of the road.

3. What causes driver fatigue?

There are a number of factors that cause fatigue in drivers. Lack of, or loss of sleep is one of the main, and most commonly known, causes of fatigue. Everyone has a basic sleep need.
This can vary from person to person, but the average is seven to eight hours a day. If you don't get a full night's sleep, you're likely to be fatigued the following day. As little as two hours sleep loss on one occasion can affect reaction time, mental functioning, memory, mood and alertness. It can also greatly increase the danger of having a road crash.
It is also important to acknowledge that other factors such as our in-built body clock, medication/illness and time spent on a driving ‘task’ have a role to play in contributing to a state of fatigue.

4. How can drivers manage the effects of fatigue?

There are a wide range of things that drivers can do to manage fatigue before setting off for a trip. It is essential to ensure that drivers get plenty of sleep before a long journey and plan to drive during hours of the day when they are normally awake. Drivers are encouraged to manage fatigue by:

• Planning regular rest stops every couple of hours;
• Sharing the driving with other passengers;
• Eating light meals or fruit throughout the journey and staying hydrated;
• If you find you are feeling tired during a trip then you can take a ‘powernap’ – taking a short nap of between 20-40 mins. This is an effective way to reduce sleepiness.

5. How many crashes are caused by driver fatigue in New Zealand and how does this compare to overseas?

In 2006, driving while fatigued contributed to the deaths of more than 40 people and injured nearly 1,000 people. Over the period 2002-2006, driver fatigue was identified as a factor in 12 percent of New Zealand’s reported fatal crashes and eight percent of reported serious injury crashes. This equated to 3205 recorded crashes, which resulted in 256 fatalities, 1096 serious injuries and 3255 minor injuries. The assessed social cost of these crashes was $1.6 billion.

Detecting driver fatigue as a factor in crashes can be difficult and recent international research has suggested that fatigue may be under-represented in crash statistics. Some estimates show that the figure for fatal crashes, where fatigue is a contributing factor, is possibly as high as 20-24 percent.


6. What prompted the development of the Inter-agency Strategy to Combat Driver Fatigue (the Strategy)?

This Strategy has been developed by the Driver Fatigue Working Group (the Working Group) at the request of the National Road Safety Committee (NRSC). It is the outcome of a commitment by members of the Working Group to develop a collaborative and complementary approach to the issue of driver fatigue.


In November 2006, the NRSC formally directed the Working Group to develop a strategic approach to driver fatigue. This recommendation was supported by Ministers in their December 2006 Road Safety Policy Statement. The Policy Statement set out the government’s commitment to re-doubling efforts to educate New Zealander’s about the dangers of a number of road safety risks, such as driver fatigue, that cannot be addressed by enforcement.


7. What is the National Road Safety Committee (NRSC) and what role does it play in road safety promotion?

The NRSC is a voluntary collective of Chief Executives whose agencies have a responsibility and interest in improving road safety in New Zealand.

The Committee is convened by the Ministry of Transport and is made up of representatives from the New Zealand Police, Land Transport NZ, Transit NZ, the Accident Compensation Corporation, the Ministries of Education, Justice and Health, the Department of Labour and Local Government NZ.

The NRSC is the principal inter-agency forum for communicating and co-ordinating top level strategic policy between agencies on matters relating to road safety. The NRSC is committed to the goals set out in the government’s Road Safety to 2010 Strategy.


8. How will the Strategy contribute to reducing driver fatigue-related crashes in New Zealand?

As driver fatigue is a complex condition and hard to detect, it can be difficult to address with the traditional mix of enforcement supported by education. The Strategy recognises this and seeks an alternative approach to address this. There is concentration on raising driver awareness via on-going educational initiatives, in particular the very successful Driver Reviver Stops and the use of a television advertising campaign. These efforts are also supported by a number of engineering solutions, including the finalisation of a nationwide network of rest areas and the provision of median barriers and rumble strips on the State Highway network.

The Strategy sets out a series of complementary actions which member agencies of the NRSC will undertake. Progress on these will be periodically reported back to the NRSC by a Ministry of Transport convened Driver Fatigue Coordinating Group. The action plan will be updated regularly to take account of developments in knowledge and initiatives to address driver fatigue.


9. What are the key messages of the driver fatigue advertising campaign?

While the issue of driver fatigue has been targeted with advertising previously in New Zealand, the new campaign is the first to use and hard-hitting television ads to raise awareness of the risks of driving while fatigued. The campaign will be supported by the tagline “Wake up to the warning signs”.

The new campaign asks drivers to recognise the symptoms of driver fatigue and illustrates the potentially deadly consequences of not acknowledging the warning signs.
While the television ads point out the dangers of driving fatigued, supporting radio, print and outdoor advertising focuses on solutions, asking people to consciously plan their journeys rather than simply focusing on getting to their destinations, eg, ‘sleep before you drive’.


10. What else is being done to raise public awareness about the road safety risks of driver fatigue?

The television advertising campaign is part of a wider series of ongoing and planned initiatives aimed at raising public awareness of the dangers of driving while ‘tired’. These include:

• ‘Driver Reviver Stops’, which are co-ordinated by ACC and provide safe stopping places for drivers along the State Highway network
• The ‘Managing Fatigue’ workshops and associated workplace resources developed by Land Transport NZ for at-risk groups, such as shift workers and commercial drivers
• The Commercial Drivers Fatigue Management Project developed by Land Transport NZ to educate heavy vehicle drivers and their employers about driver fatigue
• The ‘Your Safe Driving Policy’ resource developed by Land Transport NZ developed to provide general information to the public about safe driving practices, including how to manage fatigue.

Ends


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