The on-road experiences and awareness of sleepiness in a sample of Australian highway drivers: A roadside driver sleepiness study
Watling, Christopher N., Armstrong, Kerry A., Smith, Simon S., & Wilson, Adrian (2016) The on-road experiences and awareness of sleepiness in a sample of Australian highway drivers: A roadside driver sleepiness study. Traffic Injury Prevention, 17(1), pp. 24-30.
Driver sleepiness contributes substantially to road crash incidents. Simulator and on-road studies clearly reveal an impairing effect from sleepiness on driving ability. However, the degree to which drivers appreciate the dangerousness of driving while sleepy is somewhat unclear. This study sought to determine drivers’ on-road experiences of sleepiness, their prior sleep habits, and personal awareness of the signs of sleepiness.
Participants were a random selection of 92 drivers travelling on a major highway in the state of Queensland, Australia, who were stopped by police as part of routine drink driving operations. Participants completed a brief questionnaire that included demographic information, sleepy driving experiences (signs of sleepiness and on-road experiences of sleepiness), and prior sleep habits. A modified version of the Karolinska Sleepiness Scale (KSS) was used to assess subjective sleepiness in the 15 minutes prior to being stopped by police.
Participants rating of subjective sleepiness were quite low, with 90% reporting being alert to extremely alert on the KSS. Participants were reasonably aware of the signs of sleepiness, with many signs of sleepiness associated with on-road experiences of sleepiness. Additionally, the number of hours spent driving was positively correlated with the drivers’ level of sleep debt.
The results suggest the participants had moderate experience of driving while sleepy and many were aware of the signs of sleepiness. The relationship between driving long distances and increased sleep debt is a concern for road safety – increased education regarding the dangers of sleepy driving seems warranted.
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