A wake-up call for Ontario drivers: new poll on fatigued and drowsy driving reveals serious problem

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OTTAWA, July 19, 2007 – A new poll by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) shows that a startling number of Ontarians are driving while drowsy and fatigued.

Poll findings reveal that nearly 1.3 million Ontarians fell asleep or nodded off while driving at least once in the past year. Of these drivers, more than 100,000 did so on five or more occasions.

“The number of fatigued and drowsy drivers in Ontario is a matter of major concern because of the elevated crash risk they pose,” says Ward Vanlaar, a research associate for TIRF. “These drivers accounted for 5.5 million driving trips during which they fell asleep or nodded off.”

The poll shows that the number of Ontario drivers involved in a fatigued or drowsy driving collision may be as high as 167,000. There was no lack of close calls either; over a half-million fatigued and drowsy driving trips occurred in which the driver had to brake or steer to avoid a collision.

Despite the threat posed by fatigued and drowsy drivers, Ontarians are less concerned about fatigued or drowsy driving than they are about many other traffic safety issues.

“Not all Ontarians are convinced fatigued or drowsy driving is a problem for a variety of reasons, including the belief they can control the dangers imposed by it,” says Vanlaar.

Ontario drivers use many different tactics to overcome drowsiness at the wheel, such as opening windows, changing the radio station, drinking caffeine, eating, singing along to music, and even slapping or pinching themselves. Vanlaar notes these tactics are not effective.

Only 14.8 per cent of drivers used the most effective tactic — stopping to nap or sleep. Ironically, Ontarians also rated this tactic as one of the most effective.

“Once you start feeling tired or drowsy, it becomes almost impossible to predict when you will fall asleep,” says Vanlaar. “Therefore, stopping to nap or sleep, at regular intervals, before you become tired or drowsy can save your life.”

“Ontarians know they should pull over when they’re tired; they also know it’s effective, but they’re still not doing it,” says Vanlaar. “The challenge is to find effective ways to communicate with the public about the dangers of fatigued and drowsy driving so they understand how important it is to stop driving before they feel fatigued or drowsy.”

The poll also found that a lack of sleep the previous night, driving continuously for an extended period of time, or driving at night are just a few of the reasons why Ontario drivers claim they nodded off at the wheel.

“There are a lot of things drivers can do to prevent fatigued or drowsy driving crashes — get a good night’s sleep before driving; plan ahead; take regular breaks when driving for long periods; and drive during daylight hours if possible.”

About the poll:
A total of 750 Ontario drivers completed the poll. Results can be
considered accurate within plus or minus 3.6 per cent, 19 times out of 20.
Results of this poll are published in a TIRF report titled “Fatigued and
Drowsy Driving — Attitudes, Concerns and Practices of Ontario Drivers,”
available at: http://www.trafficinjuryresearch.com.

About TIRF:
Established in 1964, TIRF�s mission is to reduce traffic-related deaths and injuries. As a national, independent, charitable road safety institute � TIRF designs, promotes, and implements effective programs and policies, based on sound research. TIRF is a registered charity and depends on grants, contracts, and donations to provide services for the public. More information about TIRF can be found at: www.trafficinjuryresearch.com.