Fatigue is tiredness, weariness or exhaustion. You can be fatigued enough for it to impair your driving long before you ‘nod off’ at the wheel – which is an extreme form of fatigue.
In 2019, fatigue was a contributing factor in 17 fatal crashes (6 per cent of all fatal crashes), 85 (4 per cent) serious injury crashes and 491 (5 per cent) minor injury crashes.
Everyone is likely to experience fatigue to some degree while driving, but fatigue is more likely for:
These effects lead to a high number of single vehicle crashes involving a car striking a tree or other rigid object, and severe head-on collisions.
Driver fatigue is difficult to identify or recognise as contributing to a crash. This means it’s likely that fatigue is under-recorded, and contributes to more crashes than we realise. Australian estimates indicate that fatigue accounts for up to 30 percent of single-vehicle crashes in rural areas. Fatigue needs to be taken very seriously.
If you're driving and notice any of the following warning signs, it's important that you pull over and take a break. The best option is to set a timer or alarm and have a 15 minute nap before driving further.
These only help with fatigue short-term. Stopping and getting a good night's sleep is the only cure.
Driver fatigue often combines with other factors, such as alcohol and speed, to cause road crashes.
Drink-driving is particularly dangerous in combination with fatigue. Alcohol can affect a driver’s alertness long before the legal limit is reached. Any amount of alcohol can combine with fatigue to affect your driving.
Speed and fatigue are also a bad combination. The faster you drive, the less time you have to react to the unexpected. When you’re tired, fatigue slows your reactions. It’s possible that speed makes up a larger proportion of fatigue-related crashes than we can identify.
*Note: Crash data for 2019 is not yet complete. Data is for all crashes reported by the Police to the NZ Transport Agency for the year 2019 as recorded in CAS at 11/05/2020.