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Longer nights and shorter days got you yawning? Being well rested is your best defence against fatigued and drowsy driving

OTTAWA, November 30, 2012 – November is a busy month for Canadians as we adjust to the return to standard time, shorter days and longer nights, and not to mention the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. The Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) would like to remind drivers to adjust their driving schedule and habits accordingly as many drivers may feel more fatigued behind the wheel as their bodies adjust to the time change, more frequent night driving and generally busier work and social schedules. But what about fatigued driving during the rest of the year?  

In a new Road Safety Monitor (RSM) report by TIRF, researchers found that 18.5% of Canadian drivers admitted to falling asleep or nodding off at the wheel. Of those who admitted to this, almost sixty percent reported doing so on two or more occasions in the last year. The report, based on a public opinion poll conducted in September 2011, investigates trends in fatigued and drowsy driving over the last eight years.

The report found that there have been no major reductions in the number or percentage of drivers who admitted to driving fatigued or nodding off at the wheel (19.7% in 2004; 18.5% in 2011), so researchers continue to be concerned about the fatigued driving problem.  

“Studies from Canada and abroad estimate that up to a quarter of fatal and serious injury collisions are fatigue-related,” explains Kyla Marcoux, a research associate at TIRF and lead researcher on the report. “There haven’t been any major reductions in self-reported fatigued-driving making this a cause for concern.”  

While driving while fatigued or feeling drowsy may not be a top concern for drivers, research shows that fatigued driving can be just as risky as impaired or distracted driving. It’s important that drivers understand that fatigued and drowsy driving has consequences comparable to impaired driving.  

“Feeling fatigued or drowsy impairs your ability to make quick driving decisions and increases your reaction time thereby increasing your crash risk,” notes Marcoux. “And worse, fatigue in combination with the consumption of even small amounts of alcohol and over-the-counter and illicit drugs can further increase your crash risk.”  

Studies show that the most common strategies that drivers use to combat fatigue such as opening car windows, consuming caffeine products/stimulants, talking to passengers, and singing along to the radio are not effective solutions. The best advice researchers can provide? A good night’s sleep and frequent breaks while driving.  

“Fatigue can strike at any time, about a third of the Canadians surveyed who said they had fallen asleep while driving had been driving for less than an hour,” explains Marcoux. “Strategies such as a good night’s sleep the night before and frequent rest breaks during longer trips are your best strategies for combatting fatigue.”  

When asked how soon after driving a driver should stop and take a break, more than 51% of Canadian drivers said that a break was only necessary after three or more hours of driving, a full hour later than the two hours recommended by the National Sleep Foundation and the Highway Safety Roundtable.  

Marcoux explains, “Although over forty-eight percent of drivers agree that shorter driving times between breaks helps keep drivers alert, more than a quarter of Canadian drivers admitted to not heeding the advice and reported that they would drive two or more hours without stopping for a break.”  

About the poll. These results are based on the Road Safety Monitor (RSM), an annual public opinion poll developed and conducted by TIRF. A total of 1,208 Canadians completed the poll in September and October of 2011. Results can be considered accurate within plus or minus 2.8%, 19 times out of 20. This report was made possible by financial support from Transport Canada and the Brewers Association of Canada.  

A copy of the full report is available at bit.ly/YyrDB3  

About TIRF. Established in 1964, TIRF’s mission is to reduce traffic-related deaths and injuries. As a national, independent, charitable road safety research institute, TIRF designs, promotes, and implements effective programs and policies, based on sound research. TIRF is a registered charity and depends on grants, contracts, and donations to provide services for the public. Visit us online at www.tirf.ca.

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