July 10, 2007

“Startling” number of Ontarians driving while drowsy and fatigued – TIRF poll

Ottawa, Ontario – A new poll by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) shows that a startling number of Ontarians are driving while drowsy and fatigued. The poll found that nearly 1.3 million Ontarians fell asleep or nodded off while driving at least once in the past year; of these, more than 100,000 did so on five or more occasions.

“The number of fatigued and drowsy drivers in Ontario is a matter of major concern because of the elevated crash risk they pose,” says Ward Vanlaar, research associate for TIRF. “These drivers accounted for 5.5 million driving trips, during which they fell asleep or nodded off.”

The poll shows that the number of Ontario drivers involved in a fatigued or drowsy driving collision may be as high as 167,000, and over a half-million similar trips occurred in which the driver had to brake or steer to avoid a collision. However, despite the threat, Ontarians are less concerned about fatigued or drowsy driving than they are about many other traffic safety issues.

“Not all Ontarians are convinced fatigued or drowsy driving is a problem for a variety of reasons, including the belief they can control the dangers imposed by it,” Vanlaar says. Drivers use tactics such as opening windows, changing the radio station, drinking caffeine, eating, singing along to music, or even slapping or pinching themselves, but Vanlaar says these tactics are not effective. Only 14.8 per cent use the most effective tactic, stopping to nap or sleep, even though the majority polled rated it as one of the best.

The poll also found that lack of sleep the previous night, driving continuously for an extended period of time, or driving at night are among the reasons why drivers claim they nodded off at the wheel.

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