There’s been plenty of research indicating that driver fatigue contributes to a significant number of commercial truck crashes. Now a new study suggests that the availability of rest areas – including truck stops – has an effect on the number of fatigue-related accidents that occur on the nation’s roadways.

A study at the University of Kentucky funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) compared the number of fatigue-related crashes to those caused by other factors, such as distracted driving, in connection to the proximity of truck stops and other rest areas. (Nationwide, Kentucky was among the bottom half of states in terms of the number of parking spaces for commercial trucks, according to the Federal Highway Administration in 2015.)

Distance from rest a factor

Compared to crashes related to other human causes, fatigue-related crashes were more likely to occur when rest areas were 20 miles or more from the crash site. Fatigue-related crashes also occurred on parkways more often than on interstates and were more likely to occur at night and on dry pavement, according to the study published in the Accident Analysis and Prevention.

The researchers obtained records on commercial vehicle driver crashes occurring from 2005 to 2014, using data from the Kentucky Collision Report Analysis for Safer Highways (CRASH) system, which is maintained by the Kentucky State Police. They then mapped these locations in relation to rest areas, weigh stations, and truck stops. For this part of the study, they used listings from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and the ArcGIS Business Analyst 2015, which is a computerized system of geographic information.

Already, the study’s findings have led to efforts to increase the number of parking spaces for trucks on Kentucky’s interstates and parkways, according to the investigators. In addition, the findings could help inform efforts by other states to improve truck stops and other rest areas.

NIOSH says that for commercial truck drivers, rest areas “are not only a welcome sight, but an essential part of a safe and healthy workplace.”

More information is available:

NIOSH: Extramural Research and Training Programs­ State Surveillance Program