Baby on board. Picture: iStock
Baby on board. Picture: iStock

Why parents are ‘the most dangerous drivers’

EXHAUSTED new parents could be the most dangerous motorists on the road, according to a shock new study that has sparked calls for mum and dad drivers to be included in a revamped fatigue campaign.

Australian Road Safety Foundation chief executive Russell White called for an update to the "driver reviver" campaign as research found parents of babies with poor sleep habits were three times more likely to suffer from daytime dysfunction compared to those who slept well.

The dysfunction was found to impact driving.

"We have the idea that a fatigued driver is the one who is driving long distance throughout the night, but in reality an exhausted parent out on the road at school times like 8.30am or 3pm could be just as risky," Mr White said.

"We need to rethink and expand who we identify as a high risk fatigued driver."

Driving on less than five hours sleep within 24 hours triples the risk of having a crash.

Professor Michael Gradisar, Clinical Psychologist at the Child and Adolescent Sleep Clinic at Flinders University and an author of the study, told The Courier-Mail as babies continue with sleep problems daytime dysfunction increases by 14 per cent per month.

Drivers should pay close attention to parents with children in the back seat. Picture: iStock
Drivers should pay close attention to parents with children in the back seat. Picture: iStock

"On the road we become more alert when we see a learner driver or a P-plater or even a truck driver but it might pay to be more aware around the parent driving with a child in the back seat," he said.

"A sleep-deprived mum or dad with poor concentration are potentially the most highly dangerous drivers."

By six months old, only 50 per cent of babies sleep through the night.

At one year close to 40 per cent still wake and it is not until three that most children sleep right through.

"From a clinical point of view I can only advise tired parents to be aware of their level of tiredness. If they are putting the milk in the cupboard and have high levels of distraction then they should not drive," Prof Gradisar said.

Flinders University partnered with New York-based tech company Nanit for the study, presented at the World Sleep 2019 conference.

"The driving dysfunction area of the research is very interesting and we plan to put to the test the driving capabilities of sleep-deprived parents compared to well-slept adults," the author said.

Clare Wood at home with her two boys Hunter, 4, and Jackson, 2, at Wavell Heights. Pictuire: Liam Kidston
Clare Wood at home with her two boys Hunter, 4, and Jackson, 2, at Wavell Heights. Pictuire: Liam Kidston

Brisbane's Clare Wood is the mum of two boys and runs her business coaching firm from home.

"The boys have never been good sleepers so feeling tired for me has become the norm. I would probably get five hours of sleep per night. The boys are up about 4.30am and waken often waken several times in the night. I work late at home," she said.

"I am well aware that I am tired but most mums will tell you the same thing. Driving is often a necessity but if I feel I can't cope I will call out for help," she said.

 

 

SIGNS OF FATIGUE

 

Drifting out of your lane

Unintended changes in speed

Heavy-feeling eyelids

Microsleeping

Loss of concentration.



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