David Stuart

Tired CQ mine workers at risk of road drift

TIRED motorists driving hundreds of kilometres from mines to central Queensland cities are more than five times more likely to drift into oncoming traffic.

A Central Queensland University study, presented to a road safety conference on the Gold Coast this week, has shown tired nightshift workers on long distance commutes are 5.3 times more likely to swerve into oncoming traffic when on the roads.

Study author Professor Lee Di Milia said driving tired and for longer than 150km in a commute were two of the biggest factors in drivers coming off the road.

While admitting crossing out of the lane was not necessarily a crash, Prof Di Milia said it was a key factor in cars coming off roads and in head-on collisions.

"In central Queensland we're talking about single lanes and very narrow roads," he said.

"Crossing either the middle line or the outside line is a precursor to going into the bush or to oncoming traffic."

The study was conducted on Central Queensland roads while a police breath-testing operation was being conducted on Central Queensland highways in November, 2010.

Mackay, Yeppoon, Gladstone and Rockhampton were named as the most common destination for DIDO workers, hundreds of kilometres away from most mines.

Prof Di Milia said working night shift, travelling long distances, and not having slept enough over a number of days were key factors in increasing the likelihood of falling asleep behind the wheel.

She said the average DIDO workers travels 210km per commute with mines across the Bowen Basin often up to three hours away from the city the workers live in.

"Instead of a company town, for lifestyle reasons, and because it can be so hard to get accommodation in the towns near mines, people will drive hours to get to major centres," he said.

While DIDO workers were at risk due to the number of factors against them, Prof Di Milia said sleep was a risk all drivers should be wary off.

"Sleep is quite immediate, you could just be driving around the corner, it doesn't have to be a long distance drive to be at risk."

Prof Di Milia said there was no silver bullet to stop people driving tired, but said government campaigns encouraging drivers to pull over every two hours were helping.