Millions of drivers are putting themselves and other road users at risk by driving while dangerously tired.
Half of drivers have admitted getting behind the wheel while tired and a shocking ten per cent to doing so when “dangerously tired”.
The same proportions of motorists said that they have either nodded off at the wheel themselves or been involved in an accident as a result of a driver falling asleep.
The research by car buying site carwow showed that the main reasons people are driving while over-tired is working unsociable hours (24 per cent), to get home after a late night event (22 per cent) and simply, a lack of sleep (30 per cent) – stemming from our increasingly demanding lifestyles.
Despite being aware of their tiredness, most drivers said they continued their journey anyway.
According to road safety campaign group Think!, almost 20 per cent of accidents on major roads are sleep-related and sleep-related crashes are more likely than others to result in a fatality or serious injury as the driver doesn’t respond or brake before impact.
Being tired can affect attention, awareness, reaction times and even a driver’s ability to control a vehicle. And for drivers who experience a “microsleep” – nodding off for between two and 30 seconds – the results can be catastrophic. According to road safety charity Brake, a six-second microsleep is enough for a car moving at 70mph to travel 200m, potentially veering across other lanes of traffic or off the road.
Prevention or cure
The carwow study found that more than half of drivers (59 per cent) did the most obvious, and safest thing, and stopped. Others tried opening the windows (67 per cent), turning the radio up (33 per cent) or drinking coffee or energy drinks (44 per cent).
- Plan ahead – if you know you’ve got a long drive coming up make sure you’re well rested the night before. Plan your journey to include a 15-minute break every two hours.
- Avoid driving at times when you’re most likely to be tired – research has shown that for most people the period between midnight and 6am is when they are most likely to fall asleep. Studies have also found most people experience a “dip” in energy in the mid-afternoon.
- Don’t start a long trip if you’re already tired.
- If you start to feel sleepy, find a safe place to stop – not the hard shoulder of a motorway. Drink two cups of coffee or a high-caffeine drink and have a rest for 10 to 15 minutes to allow time for the caffeine to kick in.
- Remember, the only real cure for sleepiness is proper sleep. A caffeine drink or a nap is a short-term solution that will only allow you to keep driving for a short time.