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TAKE A NAP: Drowsy drivers biggest killer on rural roads

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More people are being killed on regional NSW roads than in the Greater Sydney area, with drowsy drivers being blamed for the greatest road toll. 

Following a devastating surge in fatal crashes across Australian roads this year, the Australian Road Safety Foundation (ARSF) released details of escalating risks being taken by motorists in rural areas. 

One of the greatest killers, it found, was drivers getting behind the wheel while tired.  

Despite just over a third (34%) of New South Wales drivers residing in regional areas, road deaths in these areas account for almost two thirds of the state’s road toll.  

In fact, of the 288 NSW road deaths in the last 12 months, 186 (65%) occurred on rural roads compared to 102 (35%) that were recorded in the Greater Sydney area.  

ARSF research revealed a clear driver disregard for safety on regional roads. 

More than a third (38%) of NSW drivers openly admit to breaking road rules when travelling on rural roads, including driving over the speed limit (40%), using a mobile phone behind the wheel (13%) and crossing a double line (11%). 

Rural road
One of the region’s rural roads in Woodville, near Maitland. Photo: Peter Stoop

Equally concerning is the revelation that while almost a quarter (23%) of drivers take a trip on a regional road each month, more than a fifth (21%) struggle to maintain focus due to fatigue. 

Despite more than a third of New South Wales drivers (38%) planning rest breaks during their journey, almost a fifth (19%) admit to feeling fatigued but push on in an effort to reach their destination sooner.  

Additionally, more than one in 10 (11%) drivers have experienced terrifying moments of microsleep, where they were awake, but are unable to recall driving.  

ARSF Founder and CEO Russell White expressed deep concern over the findings, considering the tragic number of fatal road accidents already seen this year.  

“As the road toll continues to rise across almost every state and territory, it is disheartening to discover that nearly one third of Australian drivers persist in taking unnecessary risks under the false assumption of safety, which may be a critical factor for why Australian roads are becoming deadlier,” Mr White said.  

“It’s also worrying to see the number of Australians partaking in drowsy driving.  

“Despite Australians being well aware of the dangers, we continue to see them engage in this perilous dance with disaster, jeopardising not just their own lives but the lives of others on our roads.”  

Woman's hands on car steering wheel

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