You may think you've been educated on the dangers of drowsy-driving. But the chances are you haven't.
Fatigue (in the clinical sense), as distinct from sleepiness, results from repetitive behaviour such as driving or physical labour. A person can be fatigued without being sleepy. A break every two hours helps refresh the body and mind from fatigue but it does nothing if you are sleep deprived.
Some organisations use the word "fatigue" to cover sleepiness as well as fatigue and inattention. New Zealand Sleep Safety has adopted the above clinical meaning of fatigue to be less confusing and identify solutions more clearly. An asterisk above fatigue (ie; fatigue*) denotes that the organisation cited is using the word "fatigue" to mean more than tiredness from repetitive behaviour (eg; driving, playing golf)
Sleepiness a Real Problem
You would be forgiven for thinking that a "break every two hours" would be a relevant message for dealing with sleepiness. But this is not the case if the driver is sleep deprived therefore it is misleading and gives the driver a false sense of security.
Sleep deprivation can only be addressed by sleeping. The AkillaŽ sleep safety educational campaign is the first campaign in New Zealand to promote this message and to advocate Power Napping rather than to just take a break.
Drowsy-driving is under-reported
Drowsy-driving crashes represent over 30% of all road crashes in New Zealand, but you'll struggle to find much reporting of this statistic.
An Australian Federal Government Study in 2000 concluded that a person driving after been awake for over 17 hours had a risk of crashing equivalent to the Australian blood alcohol content of 0.05%.
If you drive after staying awake for 24 hours you are as dangerous as someone with a blood alcohol level of 0.10%
The New Zealand blood alcohol limit for adults (twenty or over) is 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood (0.08%) and for under twenty the New Zealand blood alcohol limit is 30mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood (0.03%).
Alcohol and Drowsy-Driving
Another study shows that on four hours sleep one bottle of beer has the same effect on a driver's control and reaction times as a six-pack of beer !
Travel, alcohol & driving
A driver driving in the early hours of the morning to catch an early plane flight (or ferry sailing), return home or reach a destination is particularly prone to drowsy driving especially if the driver has had little sleep in the previous 24 hours. Responsible holiday companies, car hire companies, airlines and shipping lines should advise their customers as a matter of course, particularly if they sell alcohol which exacerbates the risk of drowsy driving.