Description: This essay was for a traffic psychology class. It is basically a good overview of driver fatigue and the impact it has had (especially on Australian roads). It has a lot of statistics which are all relatively current (up to 2000).
Driver fatigue is found to be a factor in hundreds of road accidents in Australia every year. This report will set out to examine the phenomenon known as driver fatigue and cover such topics as causes, its contribution to road accidents and fatalities, as well as prevention measures in an attempt to better understand this overwhelming problem.
Driver fatigue refers to the drowsiness or sleepiness experienced by a person, which often results in a decrease in the drivers overall concentration levels (Hartley, 1995)). This can have several dangerous effects. Most notably, it can effect scanning abilities, decision making and of course, slow down reaction times. Above all, driving fatigued can result in a person falling asleep at the wheel, usually causing a severe crash or fatality.
The concept of driver fatigue only emerged in the late eighties and early nineties, so much is still unknown about it. The explanation behind the lack of knowledge surrounding the topic is a rather simple one. Unlike blood and breath testing which can identify the presents of alcohol in a person's body, it is exceptionally difficult to identify fatigue. Investigators depend heavily on accounts from drivers themselves, often describing the feeling of drowsiness or sleepiness leading up to a crash. Investigators cannot depend solely on this though, because sometimes first hand accounts are not available or reliable, particularly in the case of fatalities.
Investigators are often forced to look for characteristics which are common amongst fatigue related crashes. One such characteristic is the time of day in which the crash has occurred.