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In 2018, fatigue was a factor in 22 fatal crashes
In 2018, fatigue was a factor in 99 serious injury crashes


Fatigue is tiredness, weariness or exhaustion. You can be fatigued enough for it to impair your driving long before you ‘nod off’ at the wheel – which is an extreme form of fatigue.

Who is affected by fatigue?

Everyone is likely to experience fatigue to some degree while driving, but fatigue is more likely for:

  • young people
  • shift workers
  • people with sleep disorders.

How fatigue affects you

Slower reactions

Difficulty concentrating

Poor risk judgement

Excessive speed changes

Centre-line drift


These effects lead to a high number of single vehicle crashes involving a car striking a tree or other rigid object, and severe head-on collisions.

In 3 seconds at 100km you travel the length of a rugby field.

Driver fatigue is difficult to identify or recognise as contributing to a crash. This means it’s likely that fatigue is under-recorded, and contributes to more crashes than we realise. Australian estimates indicate that fatigue accounts for up to 30 percent of single-vehicle crashes in rural areas. Fatigue needs to be taken very seriously.

Fatigue warning signs

If you're driving and notice any of the following warning signs, it's important that you pull over and take a break. The best option is to set a timer or alarm and have a 15 minute nap before driving further.


Blinking frequently


Breaking too late

Forgetting last kms

Forgetting last kms


Tips on avoiding fatigue

Prioritise sleep - make sure you get enough sleep regularly

Snack lightly - choose light, fresh food. Avoid fatty, sugary or carbohydrate-filled options

Take a break - take a break from driving at least every two hours

Power nap - nap for no more than 20 minutes for best effect

Drive at natural times - drive during times that you're usually awake

Stay hydrated - drinking water helps keep you alert

Check your medication - be sure they won't affect your alertness on the road

Share the driving - swap drivers if possible

Avoid alcohol - any alcohol at all will increase your risk, so avoid it

Common myths


Fresh air


These only help with fatigue short-term. Stopping and getting a good night's sleep is the only cure.

How does fatigue interact with other factors that affect driving?

Driver fatigue often combines with other factors, such as alcohol and speed, to cause road crashes.


Drink-driving is particularly dangerous in combination with fatigue. Alcohol can affect a driver’s alertness long before the legal limit is reached. Any amount of alcohol can combine with fatigue to affect your driving.


Speed and fatigue are also a bad combination. The faster you drive, the less time you have to react to the unexpected. When you’re tired, fatigue slows your reactions. It’s possible that speed makes up a larger proportion of fatigue-related crashes than we can identify.

Drive for a living?

See more information on work time and logbooks and identifying and preventing fatigue for commercial drivers.


* Note: Crash data for 2018 is not yet complete. Data is for all crashes reported by the Police to the NZ Transport Agency for the year 2018 as recorded in CAS at 19/06/2019.