Drivers who are suspected of causing an accident because they are overtired and lacking sleep, could now be subject to a new blood test that will be used as evidence to prosecute. Currently, Australia is trialling the blood test, and it is likely that it will be bought into the UK as it is looking successful.
How Would it Work?
If a driver was suspected by the police of being sleep deprived, they could be taken to a hospital or police station following a crash, where a blood test would be administered, looking for sleep deprivation and drug and drunk driving.
According to data collected by the government, around one and five accidents on motorways in the UK are potentially caused by drivers who are overtired and fall asleep at the wheel. The most common age group for causing this type of accident is 18 to 30-year-old males.
The trials in Australia have been funded by the Office of Road Safety, which is a government department similar to the Department for Transport in England. So far, support for the scheme is positive, with several reports from research professors from Monash University, who are involved with the trial, giving the scheme their backing.
Professor Clare Anderson, who is a psychology, associate professor, said, “When you look at the major killers on the road, alcohol is one of them, speeding is another, and fatigue is one of them. But even though the solution to fatigue is quite simple, which is to get more sleep, our capacity to manage it is impaired. This is because we don't have tools to be able to monitor it like we do with alcohol.”
At this stage, ministers have not made any plans to implement this scheme in the UK, but the Department for Transport confirmed they will always be interested in any new technologies that could make roads safer. As UK law stands at the moment, anyone who is suspected of causing death by sleep deprivation is charged with death by dangerous driving or death by careless driving. This new test would help build cases specifically on the crime of sleep deprivation while driving a vehicle.
Any introduction of such a test would mean the law is changing to incorporate this. The blood test being trialled in Australia uses five biomarkers in the blood, which are able to determine whether a driver has been awake and not slept for more than 24 hours. Currently, research shows that the test is around 90% accurate when used in a real-world scenario.
Summarising the Department for Transport view, the chief executive of the Road Safety, Trust, Sonia Hurt, said, “Driver fatigue is a significant and serious issue. Government statistics show that in 2021, 467 people were either killed or seriously injured in collisions where fatigue was noted as a contributory factor. Therefore, any work to reduce the impact of sleep deprivation is welcome as we strive to improve road safety and save lives.”