"Being tired can be as bad as being drunk, in terms of its effect upon performance," says safety expert, Dr Ann Williamson, who led the study by the University of NSW Injury Risk Management Research Centre.
"If you get up at 6 a.m. and attempt to drive a vehicle after midnight your performance will be as bad as if you had a 0.05 blood alcohol reading. It's a claim that might surprise people but our research and at least three other studies have reached the same conclusion." The study revealed that three factors are associated with fatigue-related fatalities on country roads: time of day, how long a person had been awake, and recent sleep history. Driving between midnight and 6 a.m. is the most dangerous time to be on the road because the circadian rhythms that control our body clock encourage us to sleep, says Dr Williamson.
"Any truck driver will tell you that the hours just before dawn are when they really fight to stay awake. Sleep deprivation is another risk factor for fatigue related fatalities. If you've had five or less hours sleep for several nights running you're at risk on the road."
Analysis of NSW traffic accident data shows that almost two-thirds of fatal crashes (62 percent) occur on country roads while country NSW has only one-third of the NSW population. Most of those killed on country roads are country residents. It also confirmed that several occupational groups are at higher risk for fatigue-related road crashes on rural roads -- truck drivers, tradespeople and agricultural, forestry and fisheries workers.