DRIVER FA­TIGUE DEADLY

Balonne Beacon - - FRONT PAGE - Louise Shan­non

DRIV­ERS trav­el­ling long dis­tances have been urged to plan their trips, take reg­u­lar breaks and to avoid “mi­cro sleeps” and mo­bile phone us­age.

Roma Po­lice Se­niorSergeant Scott Jack­son said “the dis­tracted driver” was one of the big­gest dangers on the road how­ever sim­ple steps could re­duce crashes and fa­tal­i­ties.

Sen-Sgt Jack­son said while the re­gion had ex­pe­ri­enced one ex­tra fa­tal­ity than at this time last year, there had been fewer traf­fic crashes.

“We’ve in­creased our aware­ness and in­creased our traf­fic con­trols.

“There’s been a po­lice ef­fort and a com­mu­nity ef­fort.”

He said it was vi­tal that peo­ple planned their trips “so they’re not just jump­ing in the car and go­ing”.

If trav­el­ling for more than eight hours, driv­ers should plan a 10–15-minute break or swap driv­ers ev­ery two to three hours.

“Most traf­fic col­li­sions oc­curs where fa­tigue is a fac­tor and peo­ple have tried to drive too far.”

He said fa­tigue af­fected peo­ple in dif­fer­ent ways and signs to no­tice in­cluded yawn­ing and blink­ing or rub­bing the eyes more fre­quently than nor­mal.

Mi­cro sleeps posed es­pe­cially high risks, he said.

“If you’re trav­el­ling at 100km/h and close your eyes for two sec­onds, you cover half a foot­ball field.

“And if you get a text mes­sage and you look down for two sec­onds, take two sec­onds to read your mes­sage and two sec­onds to look back up, that’s six sec­onds … and a lot can go wrong in that dis­tance.

“We find most of our ac­ci­dents are oc­cur­ring where a dis­tracted driver has put the pas­sen­ger tyres off the bi­tu­men and has over-cor­rected, then – while try­ing to get the ve­hi­cle back on the road – has gone down a cause­way or caused the ve­hi­cle to skid off the road.

“You can also veer onto the wrong side of the road and then it’s too late.”

Sen-Sgt Jack­son said driv­ers should avoid stay­ing up late the night be­fore a long trip and younger driv­ers par­tic­u­larly should be strict about two-hourly breaks.

“Even if they pull up in a park­ing bay and stretch their legs and have a drink of wa­ter, or have a snooze for 15 min­utes to break up the monotony.

“Don’t drive dis­tracted – many fam­i­lies are putting mo­bile phones in hand­bags and boots so they’re not dis­tracted. Or, have some­one else an­swer the phone and get them to ring you back.”

In the state’s western re­gions, Sen-Sgt Jack­son said the mo­bile phone mes­sage was be­ing con­veyed how­ever vis­i­tors trav­el­ling through ru­ral ar­eas were of­ten check­ing their phones con­stantly for re­cep­tion sig­nals and mes­sages com­ing through.

“Drink driv­ing is slowly, slowly re­duc­ing – ev­ery­one’s got the pic­ture – and that’s taken a long time.”

He said hol­i­day-mak­ers should also be aware the ex­tra weight in their cars of with camp­ing gear could change “how the car han­dles”.

Speed­ing in the area has been re­duced with 60–70 per cent of no­tices writ­ten for speeds of be­tween 0–13km above the limit but there’s “a small band” of 1 in 20 driv­ers who may reach 30–40km/h above the speed limit.

Driv­ers also needed to take into ac­count wet weather and lo­cals should be aware that con­di­tions for the same stretch of road or a cer­tain bend could be dif­fer­ent in vary­ing weather.

“Pay at­ten­tion be­fore you leave and dur­ing the trip,” he said.

“Stay fo­cussed on the roads.

“And change your driv­ing to suit the cir­cum­stances,” Sen-Sgt Jack­son said.

PHOTO: ROB WIL­LIAMS

STAY SAFE: Po­lice urge road users to take care on the road at all times of the year.

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