Driving tired is the second biggest killer on NSW roads, with around 24 per cent of all crashes in the country involving a fatigued driver or rider.
In 2017, 67 people died on country roads with fatigue as a contributing factor.
Six of these deaths were in the Riverina.
While contributing factors should not be considered alone, it’s a disturbing statistic. In comparison, illegal alcohol was a factor in only one Riverina road death.
NSW Centre for Road Safety executive director Bernard Carlon said the risk of fatigue crashes is higher in the country as drivers often embark on longer trips.
“Being awake for 17 hours has a similar effect on your performance and reaction time behind the wheel as a blood alcohol content of .05,” Mr Carlon said.
“So you need to consider how tired you are any time you drive, day or night regardless of the length of your trip.”
A good night sleep is the doctor’s order, coupled with remaining alert to signs of tiredness and taking action when symptoms set in.
“If you feel tired while driving or experience any of the early warning signs such as yawning, restlessness or sore eyes, pull over in a safe place and have a 20 minute nap,” he said.
“Your decision to drive while tired can result in serious consequences for yourself and others.”
Wagga Highway Patrol officers target fatigued drivers daily in an attempt to curb the carnage.
Acting Senior Sergeant Stephen Sivewright said policing fatigue largely relies on techniques of observation.
“What we do if we’re driving along we’ll look at the vehicles coming towards us,” Sergeant Sivewright said.
“If they’re fatigued some of them will be driving a fair bit under the speed limit, some a fair bit over the speed limit.
“When detected we’ll stop them and have a chat to them and by chatting to them see if they’re actually fatigued or not.”
He said fatigue effects people differently, but police look for telltale signs such as itchy eyes, yawning or playing loud music to identify a tired driver who may be risking their own and other’s lives by driving.
“The biggest thing for us is to identify when someone’s had an accident if it is fatigue related or not,” he said.
“The only way of doing it is by asking them questions, finding out where they’ve started their journey from, where they were going and how far into it they were.”