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Drowsy Driver Awareness Day

Drowsy driving crashes are the most violent, worst type of crash as there is no braking, no deceleration, and no avoidance of the crash. Drowsy driving crashes account for over 20% of the crash causes in New Zealand. They are very common in the Christmas /New Year period when people become very tired.

When a driver is ‘sleep deprived’ they can fall asleep when on the road, any-where and at any-time. A Micro-sleep is a brief 3 second sleep episode, where ‘your eyes do not have to be shut for your mind to be asleep’. In a 3 second micro-sleep, when travelling at 100 km/hr your vehicle travels 83 metres, almost the length of a football field! Microsleeps are responsible for many head on crashes in New Zealand.

Sleep deprivation results from poor quality sleep, sleep debt buildup or an undiagnosed (and hence untreated) sleep medical condition (eg; Sleep Apnea)

Drowsy driving warning signs include; yawning frequently, difficulty keeping your eyes open, Micro-sleeping, head nodding, daydreaming, no memory of the last few kilometres driven, missed road signs, not aware of the traffic around you.

Countermeasures include swapping drivers or pulling over in a safe place and having a 15 minute Powernap, booking in to nearby accommodation, or asking a friend to come and collect you. To have a 15 minute Powernap pull over in a safe place and have a 15 minute sleep (not more than 20 minutes or you may wakeup feeling groggy). Wait until at least 10 minutes before driving to make sure that you are fully awake.

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Drowsy driving crashes are very common mid-afternoon. This coincides with the combination of ‘biological down-time’, hottest time of the day, and after lunch.

The AKILLA drowsy driving educational campaign was set up to educate New Zealanders about the dangers of drowsy driving. The campaign was officially launched on May 31st 2005. The day was acknowledged by Government transport ministers in their new policy speeches (‘A Planned Educational Strategy’ - released on the 13th 2006, at Parliament.)

More educational information, including real life experiences of drowsy driving are available on the official website at www.akilla.co.nz

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