Tapping into science of sleeping to save lives

The latest Transport Accident Commission (TAC) campaign taps into the science of sleep in a bid to stop drivers falling asleep at the wheel.

Using the slogan 'you can't fight sleep', the confronting TV advertisement features a woman peacefully laying her head down on a pillow in slow motion as she falls asleep. As her head hits the pillow, it becomes apparent the pillow is actually an airbag inflating in a crash.

TAC Chief Executive Officer Janet Dore said the campaign represented a shift in focus from earlier fatigue campaigns by combating the false belief that drowsy driving, estimated to be a factor in up to 20 per cent of Victorian road crashes, is only a danger on long trips.

"The campaign's message is that from the moment you wake, sleep-inducing chemicals build up all day, causing drowsiness. This drowsiness signals the onset of sleep, which can happen in an instant and without further warning," Ms Dore said.

"On average, a healthy adult needs seven to nine hours of quality sleep to function optimally.

"After 24 hours of no sleep, the risk is the same as driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.1.

"We tend to think that sleep is a choice we have control over, but it is actually a chemical and physiological process. The only way it can be overcome is by sleeping.

"In the absence of sleep, the chemicals that cause drowsiness will continue to build up in the brain until they reach a tipping point where staying awake is no longer an option.

"Drowsy driving is deadly, regardless of whether you are driving a short distance home or on a long road trip.

"Too many people believed they could keep sleep at bay by winding down a window, turning the radio up or having a coffee but the best thing you can do is get a good night's sleep," Ms Dore said.

Victorians can get involved in the campaign with the #yawnchallenge on social media. Upload a photo of yourself yawning with the #yawnchallenge, reminding your followers that you can't fight sleep.

You could win one of five $500 luxury sleep packs to help you get a good night's rest.

Educating drivers about the role of fatigue and drowsiness in road trauma is a key goal of the Victorian Government's Road Safety Strategy. For more information visit www.roadsafety.vic.gov.au

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