Depressed truck drivers more prone to accidents

September 3rd, 2008 - 12:10 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Sep 3 (IANS) Depression or casual employment among truck drivers may greatly increase the chances of accident, a study based on their mental health has affirmed. The study, conducted by Queensland University and supported by various bodies, including the National Transport Commission (NTC), have major implications for road safety.

Drivers of heavy vehicles worked 62 hours every week. Sixty five percent work longer, some more than 100 hours per week.

Drivers with symptoms of depression are twice as likely to have an accident, while those with severe symptoms of depression are nearly six times as likely to have an accident.

Being divorced increases the odds of depression five times, while 27 percent of drivers scored positive for potential hazardous alcohol use with three percent in the extreme risk categories.

Nearly nine percent of drivers use a drug at least weekly, with the use of some drugs double that found in the normal population.

Michael Hilton of Park Centre for Mental Health in Queensland, who authored the study, said that it is important the research findings be extended into an action plan, but the report shows that drivers themselves resist treatment.

“Educating those in the transport sector about mental health issues and reducing the stigma attached to help-seeking is important,” said Hilton. “The findings also point to the need to address the causes of stress in HGV drivers and reduce working hours,” he said.

“Our research found that 91 percent of drivers with symptoms of depression were not in treatment - we also found that drivers have substantial barriers to treatment for mental health problems,” said Hilton.

NTC senior manager (safety), Jeff Potter said “the new ‘Chain of Responsibility’ laws which address the underlying causes of heavy vehicle driver fatigue, such as poor planned rest breaks and impossible deadlines, are a step in the right direction to improve working conditions.”

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