Sleep-related crash characteristics: Implications for applying a fatigue definition to crash reports

Sleep-related (SR) crashes are an endemic problem the world over. However, police officers report difficulties in identifying sleepiness as a crash contributing factor. One approach to improving the sensitivity of SR crash identification is by applying a proxy definition post hoc to crash reports. To identify the prominent characteristics of SR crashes and highlight the influence of proxy definitions, ten years of Queensland (Australia) police reports of crashes occurring in ≥100. km/h speed zones were analysed. In Queensland, two approaches are routinely taken to identifying SR crashes. First, attending police officers identify crash causal factors; one possible option is 'fatigue/fell asleep'. Second, a proxy definition is applied to all crash reports. Those meeting the definition are considered SR and added to the police-reported SR crashes. Of the 65,204 vehicle operators involved in crashes 3449 were police-reported as SR. Analyses of these data found that male drivers aged 16-24 years within the first two years of unsupervised driving were most likely to have a SR crash. Collision with a stationary object was more likely in SR than in not-SR crashes. Using the proxy definition 9739 (14.9%) crashes were classified as SR. Using the proxy definition removes the findings that SR crashes are more likely to involve males and be of high severity. Additionally, proxy defined SR crashes are no less likely at intersections than not-SR crashes. When interpreting crash data it is important to understand the implications of SR identification because strategies aimed at reducing the road toll are informed by such data. Without the correct interpretation, funding could be misdirected. Improving sleepiness identification should be a priority in terms of both improvement to police and proxy reporting.