Around 300 people die each year due to a driver falling asleep at the wheel, and tiredness is one of the biggest killers on our roads. If you drive when you are feeling tired, not only will your reactions be slower but you will be at high risk of falling asleep at the wheel.
Department for Transport statistics show that you are at a greater risk of falling asleep between the hours of midnight and 6am, and between 2pm and 4pm.
The risk of fatigue driving
Driver fatigue is a serious problem, resulting in many thousands of road accidents each year. Research shows that up to 20% of accidents in the UK on monotonous roads, such as motorways, are fatigue-related.
Sleepiness reduces reaction time, vigilance, alertness and concentration. Drivers need to be able to make the right decision quickly to drive safely.
When you notice that you are feeling sleepy while driving, you must make a conscious decision whether to continue driving or stop for a rest. Some people underestimate the risk of actually falling asleep while driving. Others simply choose to ignore the risk to themselves, and others, in the same way that drink-drivers do.
Signs of fatigue
There are several signs to indicate fatigue while driving, though many people may not associate the symptoms with fatigue or sleepiness and continue to drive when they should stop. Here are some signs that should tell a driver to stop and rest:
- Difficulty focusing, frequent blinking, or heavy eyelids.
- Trouble keeping your head up.
- Yawning repeatedly.
- Trouble remembering the last few miles driven, missing exits or not seeing traffic signs.
- Drifting from your lane, tailgating, or hitting a shoulder rumble strip.
How can you reduce the risk?
The best way to prevent a fall-asleep crash is to plan ahead and get plenty of sleep before hitting the road. If you start to feel tired while driving, stop or have a driving companion take over. If you are not stopping for the night, find a safe, well-lit area and take a 15-20 minute nap.
Caffeine from coffee or energy drinks can promote short-term alertness, but it takes about 30 minutes for it to enter the bloodstream. Blasting a radio, opening a window and similar ‘tricks’ to stay awake do not work.
- Make sure you have plenty of sleep before making a long journey.
- Never drive if you feel tired or shattered.
- Plan your journeys to include a break of at least 15 minutes every two hours.
Greenflag.com – how to combat fatigue driving
Safermotoring.co.uk – Tiredness when driving can kill