Driver fatigue

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The factsDriver sleeping with head on steering wheel

Fatigue is a general term commonly used to describe the experience of being sleepy, tired or exhausted. Fatigue is both a physiological and a psychological experience.

Driver fatigue can severely impair judgement and can affect anyone. It is particularly dangerous because one of the symptoms is decreased ability to judge your own level of tiredness. Other symptoms vary between drivers but may include yawning, poor concentration, tired or sore eyes, drowsiness, slow reactions, missing road signs, having difficulty in staying in the lane and microsleeps.

It is important to note that driver fatigue is not simply a function of time spent driving but relates to many factors including hours since last slept (hours of wakefulness) and time of day or night.

Fatigue is a major contributor to the NSW road toll. High risk times for fatigue-related fatal crashes are:

  • night time/early morning | 10pm - 6am
  • afternoon | 1pm - 3pm

Fatigue-related crashes at these times of the day coincide with dips in the body's circadian rhythms, which program us to feel sleepy at night when we would normally be asleep and to a lesser extent in the afternoon hours.

66% of fatal fatigue-related crashes occurred on roads zoned at 100 km/h or more and 48% occurred on State Highways.

Of all fatal crashes where fatigue was identified as a factor, 37% involved head on collisions. Most drivers involved in fatal fatigue-related crashes are male. In fact, of all fatigued drivers involved in fatal crashes, 82% were men.

What we are doing

We participate in NSW Transport Staying safe campaigns which aim to raise awareness among local and visiting motorists about the dangers of driver fatigue. Campaign messages are delivered to drivers using various media.

We are also encouraging residents and visitors to download and use the RMS comprehensive map of roadside rest areas in NSW when planning their next trip.  The Rest Area map is interactive and offers you an easy way to locate rest area sites along NSW major roads and highways so you can plan breaks on your journeys.  Don't forget the wonderful volunteer run driver reviver rest stops too which are located throughout Australia.   

If you would like more information on fatigue, contact our Road Safety Officer on 02 4232 0444.