The Dangers of Driver Fatigue


Max* was lucky to escape. Photo: Kelsie Iorio


Driver fatigue is responsible for 20-30% of the road toll in Queensland, according to the Queensland Police Service.

A major factor of fatigue being a leading killer on the roads is that it can affect any driver, regardless of age.

Seventeen-year-old driver *Max Smith was no exception to the dangers of fatigued driving.

A miraculous near-miss from a car crash in September left him with serious facial laceration nearly resulting in cardiovascular shock, and injuries to his chest and collarbone.

“It was late at night and I had been working pretty hard,” Max said.

The year 12 student had been working on assignments when he told his mother he wanted to go for a drive to clear his head.

“I certainly don’t think I was aware as I normally would be, and I find it hard to believe that it would have happened if I wasn’t feeling tired and apathetic.”

The Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety – Queensland (CARRS – Q) notes that fatigue crashes are usually severe as the driver makes no attempt to avoid or prevent the crash.

A CARRS – Q fact sheet cites that ‘a driver who has been awake for 17 hours has a driving ability similar to that of a driver with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.05, and after 21 hours, similar to a BAC of 0.15.1’.

A BAC that, especially for young P-platers, is not only illegal but extremely unsafe.

Max has plenty of advice for young drivers just like him.

“Buy a car with airbags, they work very well,” he said.

Avoid driving tired if you can, don’t voluntarily drive tired if you don’t have to like I did. If you are in a situation where you need to drive and you are tired, adjust the way you drive.”

It was a harsh reality check for a community teeming with young, newly-licensed ‘invincible’ P-platers, and Max hopes the scars from his experience will serve as a reminder that no one is invincible on the road, especially when driving tired.

“There’s a reason P-plate drivers have a reputation for being the worst on the road: because we are.

“We are nowhere near as good as we think we are.”

“Being able to operate a vehicle competently doesn’t make you a good driver, experience does.

“Had I been more experienced and understood the dangers of driving while fatigued the accident probably wouldn’t have happened, I may have not even have gone for that drive in the first place.”


*Name has been changed to protect identity.

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