Fatigue is one of the three biggest killers on NSW roads, and regional motorists are at greater risk of falling asleep behind the wheel than their metropolitan counterparts.
In 2016, 83 deaths, or 21 per cent of the overall deaths on the state’s roads were the result of fatigue. It was an increase of 28 deaths compared to 2015.
NRMA road safety expert Dimitra Vlahomitros said fatigue was a major problem on regional roads.
“There have been 349 lives lost in 2017 and 243 of those have been in country areas. The loss of life is huge and unfortunately fatigue is a major contributor,” Ms Vlahomitros said.
Drivers in country areas are more susceptible to fatigue because they drive greater distances and travelling at unusual times can increase the risk, Ms Vlahomitros said.
“It’s important not to be driving at times when your body is used to sleeping or after long periods awake,” the road safety expert said.
“When drivers are tired, they have slower reaction times.
“For anyone who has been awake for 17 hours or more and gets behind the wheel, it is the equivalent of driving with a BAC of .05.”
In the past two years, it has emerged that recreational hunters are among those most at risk, with several fatigue related accidents.
Among the most notable was the death of three Orange teenagers, Todd Sligar, Mitchell Holloway and Ethan Hertslet, when their utility hit a tree near Trangie.
It prompted the Acting Commander of the Orana Local Area Command Scott Tanner to appeal to hunters to take more care.
“People are heading out on their hunting trips, and when they’ve had enough they hop in their utes and drive home,” Acting Superintendent Tanner said.
“But they’re doing so after being awake for 20-24 hours and the body just isn’t designed to do that.
“Your family will forgive you if you are late home, your boss will forgive you if you’re late for work, but the anguish that comes from these fatalities is lifelong.”
Ms Vlahomitros said the most effective way to make motorists change their behaviour was through education and enforcement, but said the problem with fatigue was it couldn’t be enforced.
“There is a way to police drink-driving but there is no way to enforce fatigue. People have to understand the dangers of it,” she said.
“There is also no cure for tiredness other than sleep. If you are constantly yawning, have heavy eyes, or can’t remember the last few corners, the chances are you are tired.”
“The best thing you can do is stop driving and take a break.”