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Drowsy Drivers A Crash Hazard

Drowsy Drivers Crash Hazard Says Injury Prevention Group

Wednesday 20 December 2006

The Injury Prevention Network of Aotearoa New Zealand (IPNANZ) is appealing to drivers to make sure they are awake and alert before they take to the roads this holiday period.

IPNANZ National Manager Valerie Norton says as many as 20 percent of crashes are caused by driver fatigue.

“Drowsy driving crashes have high death rates due to the speeds involved – there is no braking, no deceleration, no avoidance of the crash. In a three-second ‘micro-sleep’ your vehicle goes 83 metres if you are travelling at 100km an hour. That’s almost the length of a rugby field.”

She says sleep is an involuntary action – a neurobiological need that you can have little control over.

“Will power, driver skill, strong coffee, opening the window, or turning on the radio are no match for drowsiness. As soon as you experience any drowsy driving warning signs, you need to pull over in a safe place. Taking a 15-minute ‘powernap’ can make all the difference.

“Try to avoid driving when you are tired and make sure you get adequate sleep before driving. Have regular breaks when you are driving for long distances, and don’t let the temperature inside the car get too hot.”

Valerie Norton says risk factors for drowsy driving include sleep deprivation, the time of day – early morning and mid-afternoon are particular danger times, alcohol and playing relaxing music.

“Warning signs include having trouble keeping your eyes open, not being able to remember the last few kilometres, yawning repeatedly, droning or humming in the ears and having trouble keeping your head up.

“These sound obvious, but people can be so anxious to get from A to B that they keep driving even when very tired. It is far better to arrive a little later but safe and well, than to nod off at the wheel and be involved in a crash.”


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