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A lack of sleep contributes to multiple deaths on the roads

Photo: Calls to restrict sleep-deprived drivers
A lack of sleep contributes to multiple deaths each year on the roads and on industrial sites, a Sleep Foundation report says.

Driving while tired is contributing to the deaths of hundreds of Australians every year and should be made illegal, the Sleep Health Foundation says.

It's published a report showing four out of 10 Australians aren't getting enough sleep, affecting their learning and decision-making as well as increasing the risk of mental and physical illness.

Falling asleep at the wheel of a vehicle, and industrial accidents involving sleep-deprived workers, are estimated to claim the lives of 394 people a year.

Sleep-deprived drivers should be treated like drunks and barred from getting behind the wheel.

"Police departments should devote as much attention to tired and fatigued drivers as they do to speeding and inebriated ones," the report said.
"Just as there are rules forbidding driving at more than a certain speed, or after consuming an excessive amount of alcohol, there may be a case for restrictions on driving where the driver has had less than a set minimum hours of sleep in the past 24 hours."

Australian research shows drivers with 17 hours of sleep deprivation perform the same in the driver's seat as someone with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.05 per cent.

The Sleep Health Foundation's Professor David Hillman said for too many people, driving tired was a normal part of everyday life.

"When you consider that one in every five car accidents is related to fatigue that is a lot of harm caused by people not getting the sleep they need," he said in a statement.

"It's time we treated sleep deprivation like alcohol and regulated against it."

The report, compiled by Deloitte Access Economics, estimates the total economic cost of people not having enough sleep was $66.3 billion in 2016/17.

Just under half of that total was linked to productivity losses as well as medical and informal care expenses.

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