Fatigue – the invisible threat

A new report has concluded that fatigue can be just as dangerous for drivers as alcohol.

Published by the Road User Behaviour Working Party (RUBWP) of the Parliamentary Advisory Council on Transport Safety (PACTS), ‘Fit to Drive’ finds that while drink driving remains the biggest risk factor, fatigue can be equally lethal but it much more difficult to tackle.

The report said, ‘Previous studies found it hard to identify the risk of fatigue – if a driver survived a fatigue related crash they were likely to deny culpability; if they did not survive then there was little evidence that fatigue was a cause. But this latest report, acknowledges the role fatigue plays in road safety which we are very pleased to see.

‘The largest single insurance claim related to fatigue. That was for the Selby Rail Crash which occurred on 28th February 2001 when driver, Gary Hart, fell asleep at the wheel of his Land Rover, causing the derailment of a high speed train and 10 fatalities. Fatigue is now, therefore, widely accepted as a major contributory factor in fitness to drive, particularly in the early hours of the morning and on long distance journeys on major roads or motorways. But the big challenge is how to make drivers think about this invisible threat.’

The report has been welcomed by leading insurance telematics provider, Insure the Box, which offers initial 6,000, 8,000 or 10,000 miles of cover. A telematics box installed behind the dashboard then monitors the motorist’s driving, including measuring if they’ve driven too long without a break.

The report went on, ‘Of course common sense should prevail. But drivers that have telematics boxes in their cars have the added advantage of seeing the facts in black and white as part of their driver feedback. This is beneficial for young drivers in particular, who are less experienced in knowing when fatigue is impacting their driving. In addition, telematics rewards drivers for good driving behaviour, incentivising policyholders to take regular breaks. So all in all telematics-based insurance plays a crucial role in addressing the fatigue risk.

‘The ‘Fit to Drive’ report has identified that Highways England and other strategic road authorities should consider design treatments that can break up the monotony of long-distance driving. But, if we can get motorists paying more attention to their driving behaviour by learning from the insight they can gain from telematics data, then we have a chance of reducing this unseen risk in road safety.’