Driver Fatigue is the theme of Irish Road Safety Week 2020. And with almost one-quarter of Irish survey respondents confessing they’d recently driven while tired, experts are warning motorists of the dangers of fatigue on driving safety.
According to more than one survey – yes!
The results presented show almost one-quarter of drivers in Ireland (23.9%) said that over the previous month they’d driven at least once when they were so tired that they had trouble keeping their eyes open. This is higher than the European average of 20% of drivers.
This isn’t the first study to show fatigue as a problem on Ireland’s roads. In 2019, an RSA Ireland-wide study of Driver Attitudes & Behaviour found that 16% of 1,000 motorists surveyed said they had fallen asleep or nodded off while driving.
Many of us will confess to driving tired. Perhaps to keep alert we might switch on the radio, drink a caffeinated drink or open the windows. Some drivers may pull off the road and take a nap.
But are these adequate responses to a serious and potentially fatal issue?
According to Dr. Ashleigh Filtness of Loughborough University, driver fatigue contributes to 15-30% of road crashes. She believes the real level may even be higher, because not all incidents (particularly when low-severity) are reported to the police and it can be difficult to pinpoint fatigue as a contributing factor.
Crashes where fatigue is a factor are most likely to involve young drivers – most often male. They tend to culminate in the vehicle hitting a stationary object (rather than another vehicle in a head-on collision) and are likely to be high severity and culminate in a fatality or serious injury.
In November 2016, a tram derailed in Croydon in Greater London when the driver nodded off. Seven people lost their lives and a further 51 were injured. It is not difficult to wonder if other professional drivers – struggling perhaps with long, irregular hours and stop-start journeys – could easily find themselves in the same position.
In fact, when as part of the Transport Safety Research Group’s report into Bus Driver Fatigue, 1,353 London Bus Drivers were surveyed about fatigue the results are a cause for concern.
When asked, ‘How often do you have to fight sleepiness in order to stay awake while driving the bus?’
36.3% said at least 2-4 times a month and 20.8% said at least 2-3 times a week
When asked, ‘In the past 12 months, have you fallen asleep whilst driving the bus?’, 16.6% responded that yes, they had fallen asleep at least once in the last year.
In her lecture, Dr. Filtness discussed the fact that the overwhelming majority of drivers said they do not discuss sleepiness with their employer.
It is important not to vilify drivers who experience fatigue. Everyone gets tired and needs sleep, every driver has the potential to become fatigued.
However, crashes caused by fatigue are avoidable.
Drivers, and other people – those in the vehicle, those close to the vehicle – are at risk when drivers are tired.
What is key, says Dr. Filtness, is to ‘manage the factors that can lead to driver fatigue and enable drivers to do something about it’.
Avoiding crashes caused by driver fatigue is part of any good risk-management strategy.
Being honest about the reality of tiredness – drivers are human beings after all – is the first step.
Our technology can help.
One of the reasons many of our customers choose an in-vehicle, driver-facing camera is to mitigate the risk of driver fatigue causing a crash. We regularly fit our technology into buses, coaches, HGVs, vans, and cars.
CameraMatics features include AI-enabled driver warning alerts, such as Forward Collision, Driver Fatigue/Distraction, and Distance Control. When a driver starts to nod off the camera instantly picks it up and issues an audible alert.
Fleet managers also receive an alert and can instantly (or later) view the footage. This allows the manager to address potential issues with the driver and look at solutions to avoid fatigue leading to more serious issues in the future.
Driving with fatigue can be deadly. But it can be avoided. Risk management technology saves lives.