Drive sharp and sober this holiday weekend says road safety charity

As many people prepare to get away for the long weekend, road safety charity Brake is calling on drivers not to put lives at risk by following a few simple but essential road safety messages.

With the Rugby World Cup reaching a crucial stage, and many people getting up early to watch the match, Brake is reminding drivers to make sure they're fit to drive before setting off, and during the journey. That means having enough sleep before a journey, taking regular breaks during a trip, and not drink or drug driving.

Brake is advising drivers to take at least a 15 minute break from driving every two hours during long journeys, and to make sure they've had a good night's sleep before setting off.

The charity is also reminding drivers not to drink any amount of alcohol or take drugs if driving, and to be aware that substances may stay in their system much longer than they think.

Family and friends also have a part to play in saving lives, by speaking out to loved ones who are considering getting behind the wheel when they are tired, or after they've consumed alcohol or drugs.

Caroline Perry, Brake's NZ director said: "We want everyone to enjoy the long weekend and get to their destinations safely, so we're reminding drivers that being alert and sober at all times when you're behind the wheel is vitally important. Our appeal to drivers this weekend, and year-round, is take regular breaks, at least every two hours, and use these to rest and recharge.

"Even small amounts of alcohol affect reaction times and coordination, so we're urging drivers to pledge to drive sober, free from any alcohol or drugs, to help save lives. Road crashes are devastating for families and communities, and drivers have a responsibility to do everything they can to keep themselves and other road users safe."

Last year three people were killed in crashes over the Labour Day weekend and 21 people suffered serious injuries. Brake is calling on everyone to help prevent road deaths and injuries by following its Pledge for safe driving:

Slow: Drive within speed limits, drive at 30km/h or lower in communities, and slow down on rural roads too. Avoid overtaking unless you're sure it's safe.
Sober: If driving, don't drink any alcohol, or take any illegal drugs or medication that could affect driving.
Sharp: Drive alert - not tired, ill or stressed. Get a good night's sleep before driving and take breaks every two hours. Have an eye test at least every two years and wear glasses or contact lenses if needed.
Silent: Phone off or on message service. Minimise other distractions such as sat nav/GPS and tuning the radio as much as possible.
Secure: Always belt up and insist that everyone else in the vehicle does the same and adjusts head restraints. If travelling with children, ensure you have correctly fitted, appropriate child restraints. Ensure your vehicle is well-maintained and serviced.
Sustainable: Only drive when you have to.

Quick reference facts: driver fatigue

  • The most common times for drivers with normal sleep patterns to fall asleep at the wheel are early morning (2am-6am) and early afternoon (2pm-4pm). These times are when the body clock reaches a natural dip, making you sleepy and less able to concentrate [1].
  • The warning signs of falling asleep include: increased difficulty concentrating; yawning; heavy eyelids; eyes starting to 'roll'; and neck muscles relaxing, making the head droop.

Quick reference facts: drink driving

  • Drivers with 20-50mg alcohol per 100ml of blood are at least three times more likely to die in a crash than those with no alcohol in their blood [2].
  • Drivers with a BAC of 10mg/100ml, well below the NZ limit, are 46% more likely to be at-fault in a crash than sober drivers [3].
  • Alcohol is a depressant and even small amounts (such as a standard bottle of beer) affect your reaction times, judgement and co-ordination. It also makes you drowsy and affects your vision and how you judge speed and distance [4].

End notes:

[1] Advanced Driver Fatigue Research, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, 2007

[2] Review of effectiveness of laws limiting blood alcohol concentration levels to reduce alcohol-related road injuries and deaths, National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, 2010

[3] Official blame for drivers with very low blood alcohol content, British Medical Journal, 2014

[4] How much alcohol can I drink before driving? NHS Choices, 2013

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