SIXTEEN Upper Hunter businesses, including five at Muswellbrook, have put their hands up to help fight driver fatigue and reduce the road toll by offering free "cuppas" to weary motorists.
The local outlets - which are also located in Scone, Merriwa and Murrurundi - will join 90 others across the Central West, South West and Western regions of NSW to participate in the next phase of the successful 'Free Cuppa for the Driver' scheme.
The participants are encouraging drivers to take regular breaks by offering a free cup of tea or coffee to anyone who is on the road, more than 100km away from their home.
Since 2010, more than 23,000 free cuppas have been given away.
During that time, across NSW, fatigue-related crashes have fallen 19 per cent.
Upper Hunter, Muswellbrook and Singleton shire councils' road safety officer Alison Balding said the second biggest killer on NSW roads was drivers who were tired.
"This is a particularly relevant issue locally given that fatigue is more than twice as likely to be a factor involved in casualty crashes in the Upper Hunter (27 per cent) when compared with NSW (8 per cent), and the Hunter Region (10 per cent)," she explained.
"When you fall asleep behind the wheel you aren't able to react by breaking or moving out of the way of hazards, which means the crash is more likely to be fatal."
"Free Cuppas" are available from a broad range of businesses with varied opening hours, making regular breaks and free cuppas more accessible than ever.
An initiative of local councils and Transport NSW, the initiative runs each year from March 1 to May 31.
"If it wasn't for the participating businesses supplying the 'free cuppa', then this scheme wouldn't be possible," Ms Balding said.
"I would like to thank the 16 enthusiastic businesses across Scone, Merriwa, Muswellbrook and Murrurundi areas who are taking part in this year's scheme.
"This is the first time Murrurundi and Merriwa have come on board.
"We warmly welcome those participants."
An official launch to celebrate the 10-year milestone will take place in Forbes on Thursday, February 27.
The Upper Hunter participating businesses for 2020 are:
Scone Visitor Information Centre
Crowded House Café
BP Scone North
Life of Pie
Take a Break Café
Kasha Coffee Lounge
Caltex (Maitland St)
The 'Free Cuppa' website, freecuppa.com.au, allows drivers to search for the nearest participating business as well as find useful information on the scheme.
There is also an active Facebook page that will keep you up to date on the initiative and the participating businesses.