Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Fatigue blamed for two accidents

Fatigue was a growing concern for police, according to Campaspe Highway Patrol officers.

TRENT HORNEMAN July 11, 2014 3:38am

Accident on Wednesday just out of Echuca.

Fatigue has been the cause of two serious accidents on the region’s roads in the past 48 hours.

A Cranbourne man died after falling asleep and hitting a tree near Toolleen yesterday, while a Fairley woman was lucky to escape unhurt after she also fell asleep and side-swiped a truck on the Murray Valley Hwy, east of Echuca, on Wednesday.

Sergeant Greg Watkins of Campaspe Highway Patrol said fatigue was a growing concern for police.

‘‘Our lives are increasingly busier, with social media and other distractions it is only getting worse,’’ he said.

‘‘From a policing point of view, the hard part is that we have no way of testing for fatigue.

‘‘Studies have shown that someone awake for 18 hours or more has the reaction times of someone with a blood-alcohol reading of 0.05.’’

While yesterday’s accident happened early morning, Sgt Watkins said it was not the most common time for a fatigue-related accident.

‘‘Statistically, the worst time for someone to fall asleep at the wheel is between noon and 2pm,’’ he said.

‘‘The car is usually warm and you have just eaten lunch, so it is natural for the body to want to go to sleep.’’

The Transport Accident Commission’s road safety project manager Elizabeth Waller said drowsy driving accounted for about one in five crashes on Victoria’s roads, making it a major cause of road trauma.

‘‘Many people believe that falling asleep at the wheel is an issue that only affects people on long trips,’’ she said.

‘‘This could not be further from the truth.

‘‘Drowsiness affects a driver’s safety by decreasing their reaction time, their ability to concentrate and creates the very real risk of falling asleep at the wheel.’’

Ms Waller said the TAC launched a campaign on drowsiness earlier this year.

‘‘The only solution is to get a good night’s sleep, and we know that an average healthy adult needs between seven and nine hours to function properly,’’ she said.

‘‘But if you are already on the road, a 15-minute powernap could make all the difference.’’

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