Shift workers at highest risk in driver fatigue death toll

by Emily Newton

Nb: This article was submitted for a Masters university assessment in 2016 and as a result all information was correct at the time of writing.

The Penrith area has seen a rise in fatigue related car incidents over recent months.

The Local and State Governments are working with the Roads and Maritime Services to replace the current drink driving campaign in place by the local area command.

The rise in crashes has been attributed to an increase of shift workers living in the Penrith greater region.

Transport for NSW Media Officer, Trish Sunga says that driver fatigue is the second biggest behavioural contributor to the road toll and the “The ‘Don’t Trust Your Tired Self’ driver fatigue campaign highlights the serious risks of driving tired.

Since it’s launch in December 2013, the accompanying campaign website testyourtiredself.com.au provides drivers with the tools to assess how tired they might be. More than 632,000 people have visited that site, being hailed as a success by Transport for NSW.

This figure is significantly lower than the current 4.8 million licensed drivers in NSW bringing into question the effectiveness of the current campaign.

The new campaign will focus educating drivers on taking proper rest breaks and driving long distances with care.

Mrs Sunga says the new campaign is being developed to target driver fatigue in metropolitan areas including Western Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong, aiming to reframe driver fatigue in the context of an urban environment and raise awareness amongst drivers at higher risk of driving tired.”

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Fatigue related crashes are on the rise, and residents believe a lack of lighting and options for shift workers is the key contributor, not tired driving. PHOTO: Emily Newton.

However, local shift workers aren’t satisfied with the plans, believing this is an attempt at a quick fix for a much larger problem.

Cailey Monaghan, a shift worker who lives in Penrith must travel to the markets in Flemington before then continuing on to her work in Alexandria multiple times a week.

“After starting early on the roads, it’s horrifying. There are trucks that fly past, but I don’t have any other option, there is no way around [the commute],” she says.

Mrs Monaghan explains that it’s not the driving itself she is worried about, it’s the lack of freedom that forces her to do the long drives.

“We can’t afford to live any closer. You end up so tired, and after working all your brainpower is gone, I hate the drive home, but there is no alternative.”

“The solution is not education, it’s in the roads themselves. So much of the motorway out here doesn’t have lights unless it is an exit ramp, and even then, some of the bridges are complete darkness,” she said.

“Going up the Blue Mountains is so twisty, it’s scary! It just doesn’t make sense that we know shift workers are having to move further and further out of the city, but the highway still isn’t lit.”

The new Fatigue Program has been developed with a funding allocation of $20 million over 5 years to implement road safety treatments where fatigue-related crashes are likely to occur.

At time of writing, it could only be confirmed that Penrith would receive $2,100 of this funding.

Mrs Monaghan says her colleagues are furious about the level of inaction.

“It’s [expletive]. I know it sounds cliché, but because we’re poor they [the Government] just don’t care. They push us further and further out and forget about us.”

“We go in [to the city] to do the hard work, and they just don’t care. I got into a truck accident in the Mountains a few years ago, and they just don’t do anything about the actual problem.”

“Even creating better public transport systems for out west would help more than this – I know I’d still have to drive, but so many of the people I work with could easily catch transport if it was available to them.  Not only would that mean they can rest on the way home, but that would free up the roads and help those who still have to drive.”

The last time a close study was done on Penrith crashes was done in 2002. It was recorded that 7% were fatigue related, a statistic Mrs Sunga believes to have grown to approximately 20% of fatal crashes in the area.

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