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Sleepiness: how a biological drive can influence other risky road user behaviours.
The Safe System approach to road safety utilises a holistic view of the interactions among vehicles, roads, and road users. Yet, the contribution of each of these factors to crashes is vastly different. The role of road users is widely acknowledged as an overwhelming contributor to road crashes. Substantial gains have been made with improvements to vehicle and roads over a number of years. However, improvements of the road user’s behaviour have been (in some cases) less substantial. A road user behaviour that is relatively unregulated is driver sleepiness, which is part of the ‘fatal five’ of risky road user behaviours. The effect of sleepiness is ubiquitous – sleepiness is a state that most, if not all drivers on our roads has experienced, and is habitually exposed to. The quality and quantity of daily sleep is integral to our level of neurobehavioural performance during wakefulness and as such can have a compounding effect on a number of other risky driving behaviours. This paper will discuss the potential influence of sleepiness as an interceding factor for a number of risky driving behaviours. Little effort has been given to increasing awareness of the deleterious and wide ranging effects that sleepiness has on road safety. Given the wide ranging influence of sleepiness, improvements of ‘sleep health’ as a protective factor at the community or individual level could lead to significant reductions in road trauma and increases of general wellbeing. A discussion of potential actions to reduce sleepiness is required if reductions of road trauma are to continue.