ONE IN TEN DRIVERS ADMIT TO FALLING ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL
MEN MORE LIKELY TO DROP OFF WHILE DRIVING
NEARLY HALF OF DRIVERS STILL ADMIT TO OPENING WINDOWS TO TRY TO KEEP AWAKE
Wednesday 31st March 2010. Newly published research by the Road Safety Authority shows that 1 in 10 Irish drivers has admitted to falling asleep at the wheel while driving.
While more drivers are now aware of the dangers of driver fatigue and are taking action to prevent tiredness while driving the RSA has expressed concern that 42% of drivers reported that they open windows to try to keep awake, a tactic which has no effect whatsoever.
As people across Ireland prepare to travel over the Easter bank holiday weekend, the message from the RSA and Topaz is to wake up to driver fatigue and take action to prevent falling asleep at the wheel.
Mr Noel Brett, Chief Executive, RSA said: It’s encouraging to see that more people are aware of the deadly consequences of driver fatigue and are changing their behaviour as a result. Our research shows that 7 out of 10 people (67%) are now taking breaks within two hours of driving, compared with 53% in 2008. This is a very positive shift in behaviour as research tells us that driver fatigue could be a contributory factor in as many as 1 in 5 driver deaths in Ireland and can be as serious as drink driving. However the fact that more than 40% of drivers still believe opening windows will help keep them awake shows that many drivers need to change their behaviour”.
The research, conducted among 1,000 drivers in November 2009, shows that male drivers continue to be more likely than females to drive without taking a break. The research also shows that more drivers are aware of the correct action to take when feeling sleepy at the wheel. Almost half (44%) reported that the right thing to do is to stop, drink a coffee and take a nap, representing an increase of 16% on 2008 figures. (For full details of research see Editor’s Notes)
Charlie Mitchell, whose brother Fran died in a car crash in 2005 after falling asleep at the wheel of his car, is featured in a new Road Safety Authority/Topaz radio ad campaign which highlights the dangers of driver fatigue. The ad is running all this week up to Monday 5th April.
Charlie described what happened. “My brother Fran fell asleep at the wheel of his car when he was driving home on 23rd July 2005. He was only five minutes from home. After a late shift, he went to see a movie with his friend and drove home stone cold sober. At 1:30am, he crashed into a wall and died instantly. It has been five years since Fran died, and I still miss him, every single day. Please don’t let this happen to someone you love. If you feel tired when driving, do something about it to make sure you get home safely.”
To help drivers combat driver fatigue over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend, Topaz will be continuing their ‘Driver Reviver’ campaign by handing out 20,000 free cups of coffee at participating Topaz stations on Good Friday and on every Bank Holiday Friday throughout the year.
Paul Candon, Marketing and Corporate Services Director at Topaz said: “We are delighted to once again support this life-saving campaign by the RSA and to help raise awareness of the serious consequences of driver fatigue. As part of this campaign, Topaz will be offering drivers a free cup of coffee at over 100 participating Topaz stations on Good Friday, 2nd April. All drivers have to do is show their car keys to staff and request a free coffee. Posters advertising the free coffees will be in place outside all participating stations so please make sure you take a break while driving.”
Professor Walter McNicholas, Director, Sleep Disorders Unit, St Vincent’s University Hospital and President of the Irish Sleep Society points out that people who suffer from sleep disorders are in a high risk group: “While the majority of people who suffer from driver fatigue do so from a basic lack of good quality sleep, there is a group in society that suffers from sleep related disorders. Such individuals would suffer from insomnia and sleep apnoea and because of their condition are unable to get proper sleep. This results in excessive daytime sleepiness and places them in the high risk group for falling asleep at the wheel. Sleep apnoea most commonly affects middle aged males which is particularly relevant in the context of the RSA’s Research. If you think you suffer from any of these conditions you should consult your local GP or visit www.irishsleepsociety.org for more information.”
For further information,
Contact: RSA Communications Office: 096 25008
Brian Farrell, Communications Manager, RSA: 086 3881009
Kieran Garry, Gordon MRM, 087-2368366
The research was conducted by Millward Browne Lansdowne among 1,000 drivers to determine the incidence and consequences of driving while tired. The research also found that:
• Among the drivers who had fallen asleep at the wheel, 1 in 4 had fallen asleep at least twice;
• One third of drivers who fell asleep at the wheel had been travelling for just one hour when they fell asleep and almost half of drivers (45%) fell asleep while driving between 5pm and midnight;
• 1 in 5 drivers who had fallen asleep while driving had realised only when they had driven off the road or across the centre of the road;
• Just under half of drivers (47%) had startled themselves awake before something more serious occurred, a decrease of 29% on 2008 figures;
• Drivers aged between 35 and 54 are more likely to drive longer without a break;
More information on driver tiredness can be found in the RSA’s booklet ‘Driver Tiredness – The Facts’ which can be downloaded from the RSA website www.rsa.ie. A copy of the RSA’s research on driver fatigue can also be downloaded from the RSA website.
For a full list of Topaz stations participating in the driver fatigue campaign on Good Friday 2nd April and every Bank Holiday Friday visit www.topaz.ie