Free coffee for motorists on the Newell Highway

Cafes along the Newell Highway are offering free cups of coffee to encourage motorists to take a break. Drivers are alerted to cafes offering the free service via an app called Free Cuppa.

The app was developed by the NSW Roads and Maritime Services, and the NSW Trade and Investment body in collaboration with the founders of an award winning app called 365cups.

The Newell Highway is the longest highway in NSW, stretching over 1,000 kilometers.

Statistics released by the RMS indicate the state has already experienced sixteen fatal crashes in 2015, with at least 1 occurring on the Newell Highway. The authority also reports that driver fatigue is one of the biggest contributors to fatal crashes.

Co-founder and director of 365cups Simone Eyles says, although driver fatigue is a major concern it can be easily managed. The Free Cuppa app encourages tired motorists to take a break. The first stage of the initiative will run from March 1 to May 31 2015.

Ms Eyles says this time frame covers the Easter and ANZAC day holiday period, the most dangerous time of the year for drivers.

How does Free Cuppa work?

The app is part of the wider Free Cuppa for the Driver scheme. Motorists who have been driving for over 100 kilometers are entitled to receive their hot drink at participating businesses on production of their driver’s license.

Once drivers download the app they receive alerts when they are close to a participating cafe.

By encouraging users to take a break, the app ties in with the NSW “Stop, Revive, Survive” campaign.

The science of driver fatigue and caffeine

According to the RMS, fatigue is one of the top three factors responsible for fatalities on NSW roads. In fact, statistics show tiredness caused more deaths than drink driving in 2012. Even more alarming is the fact that fatigue related crashes are twice as likely to be fatal.

Fatigue has some early warning signs and recognising these can save lives. RMS recommends that drivers pull over at a safe stop and take a break when they notice any of the following symptoms:
•    Yawning
•    Poor concentration
•    Sore/tired eyes
•    Restlessness
•    Drowsiness
•    Slow reactions
•    Boredom
•    Over-steering

Although, coffee breaks are a great short-term solution, it is important to remember that caffeine may not always work.

According to a paper released by the University of Rochester, the effects of caffeine are at their highest during the first hour of consumption. For some people the effects can can last up to 6 hours. However, when it comes to sleep deprivation, coffee is only a temporary fix.

Statistics: groups worst affected by fatigue

RMS figures show there are four categories of motorists at risk of having fatigue-related crashes.

The riskiest group is made up of males between the ages of 17 and 49. This group also displays the most precarious attitude towards driver fatigue.

The second category is of males over the age of 50. These motorists are most at risk when driving in the afternoon.

Third in line are females, who drive when tired but not as frequently as the above two groups. RMS campaigns target women as influencers of driver behaviour.

Finally, motorists with culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds struggle with fatigue. This is mainly due to communication issues. RMS is making efforts to reach out to some of the largest community language groups in NSW.

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