08 Jan Drowsy driving can be the same as drink driving, ANU researcher says
If you resort to blasting the radio or turning up the air conditioner to stay awake at the wheel, chances are you’re already driving dangerously.
Road safety expert from the Australian National University, Dr Vanessa Beanland, said research shows being awake for 17 hours causes the same driving impairment as having a blood alcohol content of .05.
The risk of someone having a car accident with that much alcohol in their system is double that of a 0 per cent reading, according to the Australian Federal Police.
Dr Beanland stressed that this means driving down the coast after a long day at work is equal to driving with an illegal level of intoxication.
She also found that having five hours sleep, as opposed to the recommended eight hours, affects vigilance.
“Which is really important for driving because you have to be vigilant for anything that changes on the road and anything unexpected that happens,” she said.
“It can have serious consequences.”
She said sleepy drivers find it harder to keep their cars within the lines, have slower reaction times and are less able to detect hazards.
Road crashes in Australia are estimated to cost $27 billion per year.
According to ANU researchers, drowsy driving is implicated in 15-30 per cent of all crashes. These are most likely to occur in the early afternoon or between midnight and 6am.
To reduce tiredness when driving, the ACT Government’s Road Rules Handbook recommends drivers to follow the well-known slogan ‘stop, revive survive’ and have a 15 minute break every two hours.
Other tips include sharing the driving, having light snacks rather than fatty foods and staying hydrated.
While following this advice is always important when behind the wheel, Dr Beanland said it is particularly critical this time of year.
“People are driving long distances that they might not usually do,” she said.
“Their sleep patterns might be altered, they might feel pressure to get to Christmas or the New Years party, and they might be pushing themselves.”