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Safety campaign aims to reduce Waikato driver fatiguecrashes


Don't drive tired is the message that the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) and their road safety partners will be proactively reminding motorists over the next six weeks on State Highways 39 and 3.

“Don’t drive tired” is the message that the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) and their road safety partners will be proactively reminding motorists over the next six weeks on State Highways 39 and 3.

The 2008 Winter Fatigue Stops campaign will be kicking off this coming Sunday evening with the first of six planned fatigue stops targeted at skiers travelling to and from the mountains on Waikato roads.

Waikato and Waipa Fatigue Stop organiser Megan Jolly says the fatigue stops aim to arm motorists with important information and strategies for staying safe, particularly for skiers who drive long hours to and from the mountain after a full day at work on Friday and then two days on the snow.

Ms Jolly, who is the Road Safety Coordinator for Waikato and Waipa District Councils says, “Skiers, particularly, need to plan breaks during their journey, catch up on lost sleep before they start their journey, and ideally share the driving with a well rested passenger. Research shows that the longer someone drives without a break the greater their level of fatigue, and that a fatigued driver can be just as dangerous behind the wheel as someone who is drunk.”

From 2002 to 2006 there were 129 fatigue-related crashes in the West Waikato region, resulting in 6 deaths and 185 injuries. The Winter Fatigue Stops campaign aims to reduce this toll by making drivers and passengers aware of the dangers of driving tired, and what they really need to do to stay safe.

Ms Jolly says, “Popular short-term fatigue fixes such as coffee, energy drinks and winding down the window are just not effective long-term. The only cure for fatigue is sleep. The safest course of action for tired drivers, if they can’t get someone else to drive, is to pull over and have a short nap.”

Research has shown that a short 10-20 minute nap (often referred to as a power nap) can dramatically reduce the chances of having a fatigue-related accident by improving the driver’s motor skills, boosting energy levels, increase alertness and improving their memory.

Waikato Road Policing Manager Leo Tooman says driver fatigue is a common cause of crashes. Tired drivers suffer from slower reactions, reduced concentration and often cross into another lane – which can be a recipe for disaster, especially on Sundays in the Waikato.

“There are lots of trucks heading south through the Waikato on Sunday afternoons and evenings so northbound vehicles just can’t afford to make mistakes,” says Inspector Tooman.  “If a fatigued driver nods off for a second and veers into the path on an oncoming truck their chances of survival would be pretty remote.”

The upcoming fatigue stops aim to keep motorists safe by encouraging them not to drive tired.

On Sunday 17 August a fatigue stop will be established for northbound traffic on SH39.
Further Sunday night fatigue stops will be held for people travelling home north from the mountains on 24 August and 14 September, and Friday night fatigue stops will be held for people travelling south to the mountains on 22 August, 12 September, and 19 September.

The Winter Fatigue Stop campaigns have been running since 2004 and are part of a multi-agency Network Safety Co-ordination (NSC) project aimed at improving road safety on SH39 and SH3 through a combination of education, enforcement and engineering (known as the three Es).  The project involves a number of organisations including the NZTA, ACC, Environment Waikato, the Police, and Waikato, Waipa, Otorohanga and Waitomo District Councils.