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Over the past five years an average of 131 people have lost their lives on Victoria’s regional roads each year. Sadly in 2022 alone, that number reached 135 people.

Victoria is leading the way in improving driver safety with the introduction of compulsory seatbelt legislation and strict laws about drink driving and phone use. As part of their Safer Roads Program, Regional Roads Victoria are also implementing road safety barriers, widening road shoulders, and upgrading areas for cyclist and pedestrians. But road infrastructure and road laws are only part of the solution to reducing fatalities and injuries on our roads.

Regional and rural roads are often quiet, long and dark – a combination that can easily lull drivers into a fatigued state. One simple yet vitally important step all Victorian drivers can take to avoid loss of life or serious injury is not driving tired. 

What are the risks of driving fatigued?

  • In Victoria, around 30 people lose their lives and up to 200 people suffer serious injuries each year in motor vehicle accidents caused by fatigue.
  • Falling asleep for just four seconds while travelling at 100 km/h, means the car will have travelled approximately 111 metres without you being in control.
  • Being awake for 17 hours within a 24 hour period causes the same level of impairment as a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.05, and going without sleep for a full 24 hours has the same effect as a BAC of .1 - double the legal BAC limit!
  • The TAC has shared that 37% of people have admitted to driving while tired – that’s an estimated 1.6 million Victorians driving tired each year.

We support numerous clients every year who have been injured in motor vehicle accidents caused by themselves driving fatigued, or someone else driving fatigued which placed our client in harm’s way. Particularly so in our regional offices. These type of transport accidents are largely preventable.

Signs of driving fatigue

Many people struggle to recognise their fatigue or understand how quickly it develops.

Early signs of driver fatigue can include:

  • yawning
  • tired or sore eyes
  • boredom
  • slowed reflexes and responses
  • impaired decision-making and judgement
  • poor concentration
  • feeling irritable
  • daydreaming, and
  • variations in driving speed.

In addition to the above, signs of exhaustion can include:

  • constant yawning
  • dizziness
  • blurry vision
  • headache
  • drifting in the lane/ into another lane;
  • trouble keeping your head up
  • difficulty remembering the last few kilometres, and
  • microsleeps.

Microsleeps are unintentional periods of light sleep or “nodding off”, that can last between 2 and 20 seconds. During this time you may lose attention, stare blankly, have partial or fully closed eyes, or you may find your head snapping upright. Driving while fatigued is very risky, but driving while this exhausted is exceptionally dangerous because the driver is essentially driving unconscious.

Six steps to take to avoid driving fatigue

  1.  Take a short “power nap” if you are tired or exhibiting signs of fatigue or exhaustion. Research shows that even a small sleep or power nap of 15-20 minutes can temporarily lessen the effects of fatigue for up to 1-2 hours
  2.  Take regular rest breaks every two hours, or less as required
  3.  Stop for at least 15-30 minutes during each break period; each time leave the car, and stretch and walk around
  4.  Where possible, drive for no more than eight hours (with breaks) within a 24 hour period
  5.  Plan to share driving on long trips, and consider appropriate rest stops or overnight stays
  6.  The only cure for sleepiness is to get enough sleep. If you are feeling sleepy, stop driving as soon as you can.

You can also prepare for a long drive by packing ahead of time, getting a good night’s sleep and using the VicRoads rest stop map to plan your breaks (personally, I like to stop in regional towns so I can try as many local bakery pies as possible).

We all need to acknowledge that being safer people when driving on roads is fundamental to reducing overall road trauma. Remaining alert and awake, following the road rules, and avoiding distractions can be the difference between arriving home to our loved ones or not.

If you have sustained injury as a result of a motor vehicle accident, you can arrange to speak to one of our lawyers by completing our free claim check

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