9 Med. Sci. & L. 1 (1969)

handle is hein.journals/mdsclw9 and id is 1 raw text is: 



MEDICINE

                            SCIENCE

                                                  and the LAW

   Vol. 9                     January 1969                         No. i

                            EDITORIAL
                       FATIGUE. THE SUBTLE KILLER *
AT the International Meeting on Alcoholism t Goldberg drew attention to a
late but inadequately appreciated effect of intoxication which is of considerable
significance-drowsiness. The following is particularly relevant.
   Have you ever watched someone trying to fight sleep after a heavy meal?
The eyes gradually close, the head slowly droops forward, the mouth opens,
... and then suddenly there will be a nod and a coming awake. Such a sequence
will take perhaps half a minute, sometimes more.
   When a driver becomes fatigued to the point of drowsiness, a similar sequence
takes place. Let us suppose the time is a holiday week-end. On such occasions
there is an inclination to go somewhere. This is good, particularly out here in
the West where fine highways lead through some of the most magnificent scenery
in the nation. But there is often a catch; the driver is too tired to be safely
on the road. He is a candidate for being overcome by drowsiness.
   Particularly on the open road where speeds are high, it takes only a moment
of drowsing to lead to tragedy. At 60 miles an hour or a mile a minute a car will
travel half a mile during a minimum drowse. Picture a car hurtling down the
highway for that distance at that speed with an essentially dead driver at
the wheel !
   Safety authorities have little in the way of aids to work with when confronted
with the driver fatigue problem. At the moment there is no reliable test for
fatigue, other than visual observation. While the need for sleep may be
temporarily delayed by the use of pep pills, the final result of these is often
more hazardous than the one the pills seek to prevent. Once the effects of the
pills reach their limit, the taker collapses. Rest is something that cannot be
taken from a bottle like medicine; it must be taken in the horizontal position.
   This brings us back to the promise of the long accepted combination of
education and enforcement; education for those who are willing to and capable
of responding to it, and enforcement for those who will not or cannot.
   Education concerning the hazards of driving while fatigued has been an
ongoing programme for a long time. At every opportunity safety people point
out the danger, and surely some drivers respond.
   On a few occasions, mainly over holiday periods, the enforcement people
• Reproduced by courtesy of  Arizona Safety Statistics, Traffic Safety Division, Arizona Highway
  Department.                                            t Washington D.C., 1968.
                                      1
                                                                M.S.L.-I

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