‘Sleep Disorders’ Main Topic of Safety Lecture To Mark ‘Irish Road Safety Week’

6th October, 2014

Week of road safety activities nationwide taking place from 6-12 October


The Road Safety Authority (RSA) today, Monday 6 October, held their fifth Annual Academic Road Safety Lecture, marking the first day of ‘Irish Road Safety Week’ which runs until Sunday 12 October. The theme of today’s lecture was ‘Fatigue, Sleep Disorders and Driving Risk’ and was attended by over 100 road safety stakeholders.


The 7th annual ‘Irish Road Safety Week’ is taking place nationwide this week. The RSA is urging people to get involved in this national drive to save lives, as statistics show that road fatalities are almost as high as last year, when we experienced the first increase in road deaths since 2005.


Speakers at today’s lecture included Professor Walter McNicholas, Director of the Pulmonary and Sleep Disorders Unit at St. Vincent’s University Hospital, and Ms Ellen Townsend, Policy Director at the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC).  Prof McNicholas’ presentation looked at sleep apnoea, sleepiness and driving risk, and Ms Townsends’ presentation gave an EU perspective on fatigue as a risk factor for professional drivers.


Speaking about ‘Irish Road Safety Week’, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Mr Paschal Donohoe TD said: “’Irish Road Safety Week’ is an opportunity for all of us to think about how we behave on the roads and how we can improve our safety. Sadly we have seen worryingly high deaths on our roads so far again this year, almost on a par with last year. But if we have learned anything from the previous few years, it’s that we can all make real changes to improve road safety. So this week, consider what you can do to make our roads safe.”


Speaking at the lecture, Ms Moyagh Murdock, CEO of the Road Safety Authority said: “Today’s lecture brings together road safety stakeholders to learn from national and international experience of how sleeping disorders, in particular sleep apnoea and sleepiness, impact on our ability to drive.  Evidence suggests that driver fatigue and sleepiness is a factor in 1 in 5 collisions, and for those suffering from sleep apnoea, the risk of falling asleep at the wheel is up to 7 times greater than the general population. In a recent RSA Survey of Driver Attitudes & Behaviour (2013), 1 in 10 Irish motorists admitted they have fallen asleep at the wheel. The lecture will explore these challenges presented by sleepiness and sleep disorders and examine ways to mitigate driver risk.”


Prof Walter McNicholas, who presented at today’s lecture, said:  “Untreated sleep apnoea is associated with high levels of sleepiness, which makes driving incredibly dangerous. When treated effectively, sleep apnoea is incredibly manageable, so awareness of the signs and early diagnosis is key. International literature from a number of different countries shows an average of 20-25% of all collisions on motorways are caused by excessive sleepiness. If you are tired behind the wheel, the best intervention is to pull over and sleep for 15-20 minutes. However, this is a short term measure, and will only revive a driver for up to an hour.”


Attendees at today’s lecture also heard from Ms Ellen Townsend, Director of Policy with the European Transport Safety Council. In her presentation, ‘An EU perspective on fatigue as a risk factor for professional drivers’, Ms Townsend gave an overview on the level of road deaths in Europe associated with fatigue, and examined ‘fitness to drive’ as part of overall workplace health promotion.  “Today’s lecture will help give perspective on a wide range of issues associated with the sleep disorders and road safety, and in particular, how employers can address sleep disorders and sleepiness among their employees who drive for work” said Ms Townsend.


To date this year, 146 people have been killed on Irish roads, a decrease of 1 when compared to the same period last year. This week, road safety activities will take place around the country to promote the need to stay safe on the roads.  A full list of these activities is available on www.rsa.ie


For further information on sleep disorders and to view an interview with Professor Walter McNicholas plus more information on ‘Irish Road Safety Week’ and the activities planned around the county, visit the RSA website at www.rsa.ie.


Editor’s Notes:

The RSA Lecture is the first in a series of events taking place during ‘Irish Road Safety Week’. Other activities taking place around the country during ‘Irish Road Safety Week’ include:


  • The Irish Tyre Industry Association is offering free tyre safety checks on Thursday 9 October as part of ‘Irish Road Safety Week’. Keeping your tyres in roadworthy condition is especially important as winter approaches. The checks will be available nationally at participating tyre centres. Details are available on www.itia.ie and in the ‘Tyre’ section of www.rsa.ie


  • A series of ‘Driving for Work’ seminars, run by the Road Safety Authority, the Health and Safety Authority and An Garda Síochána, will be held in October with the first taking place during Irish Road Safety Week on Wednesday 8 October. These free half day seminars are designed to help business owners, managers and supervisors understand how effective management of work-related road risks can keep employees safe on the roads and benefit the bottom line. More details are available on www.drivingforwork.ie


  • ‘Beep Beep Day!’ a road safety awareness day for children, with 20,254 children taking part in 1,473 pre-schools around the country on Friday 10 October. The RSA has sent road safety packs to all pre-schools taking part in ‘Beep Beep Day!’ Children aged 5 and under will practice basic road safety messages with the ‘Simon and Friends’ road safety storybooks, songs, games and activities. Each child will also receive a high vis vest in their pack. Information regarding child safety in cars is also being distributed to parents. This event is coordinated nationally by the RSA and organised locally by the County and City Childcare Committees.


  • The Secondary School “Back to School” pack will be distributed to students in first year and Leaving Cert year.  Pencil cases with road safety advice will be distributed to first year students while wall planners with road safety stats and important dates will be distributed to leaving cert students.  Both giveaways will be supported by posters which will be displayed on the school notice board.


  • The RSA’s primary school programmes Seatbelt Sheriff/Hi Glo Silver will launch during Irish Road Safety week where all primary school teachers nationwide will receive a pack. Seatbelt Sheriff encourages children in 1st class to always wear their seatbelt when out and about in the car while Hi Glo Silver targets 2nd class children reminding them to wear high vis when out cycling or walking day or night.
  • The RSA will also be running a series of free giveaways on their Facebook and Twitter pages, including free bicycle lights throughout Irish Road Safety Week. For further information, visit www.facebook.com/RSAIreland and www.twitter.com/RSAIreland.


  • As winter approaches, the RSA will be broadcasting their ‘Is your car ready for winter?’ radio ads on local radio stations throughout ‘Irish Road Safety Week’.


  • The RSA’s interactive road safety Shuttle and roll over simulator will be at the following locations during Irish Road Safety Week – UCD on Monday and Tuesday 6th & 7th October and Athlone IT on Thursday 9th October.  StreetSmart is in Ballylanders NS in Limerick on 6th & 7th October and Presentation Primary School in Limerick City on 8th, 9th and 10th October.


  • As part of the Road Safety Authority’s commitment to bringing road safety into all communities, we have set up a Nationwide Road Safety Education Service, which will be rolled out during Irish Road Safety Week. Our team of Road Safety Educators are available to travel all around the country visiting pre-schools, schools, colleges, YouthReach and community groups, places of work and sporting organisations. We tackle a range of topics on road safety including road safety at school, pedestrian and cycle safety, urban and rural transport issues, learning to drive and killer behaviours such as driver distraction, speeding and driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol.


  • There are also a series of initiatives being planned by local road safety officers in Local Authorities around the country. For example, in Clonmel on 7th October “Keep Safe” event will be attended by Tipperary RSO Donal Purcell. This event brings 5th and 6th class primary school pupils together with local agencies and organisations with a safety remit to explore safety issues, including road safety. Donegal Road Safety Working Group (DRSWG) are once again holding 3 Road Safe Road Shows over two days – 14th & 15th October in Aura Leisure Centre, Letterkenny, Co. Donegal.  Almost 3,000 students are expected to attend the shows this year.