When drivers are sleepy they are less able to respond quickly to changes in the road environment (that is, reaction time is slower) and they are also less likely to notice things that may pose a risk.
For example, a fatigued or sleepy driver will probably take longer to notice an upcoming intersection or railway crossing. Another risk is that the fatigued or sleepy driver will fall asleep while driving.
Research on the proportion of casualty crashes that are a result of fatigue has had mixed results, but often it is reported that around 20% of fatal crashes are fatigue related, and that this percentage is higher for crashes involving commercial vehicles.
What can be done to prevent fatigue related crashes? Drivers can do a range of things to reduce their risk of a fatigue related crash. These include:
- not driving at times of the day when they are usually asleep
- getting enough sleep before driving
- stopping driving for a short sleep if they notice signs of fatigue or sleepiness (such as yawning, blinking more than usual, or forgetting the last few kilometers of driving).
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