Drivers who fall asleep at the wheel account for up to 20% of crashes on motorways or similar roads, and as many as one in 10 of all crashes on Bitain’s roads, according to new research.
This UK Government backed research shows that:
• If you fall asleep at the wheel you are 50% more likely to die or suffer serious injury because a sleeping driver does not react before a crash
• The greatest risk of falling asleep at the wheel is between midnight-6am and 2pm-4pm.
• People who drive as part of their job are more at risk with about 40 of sleep related crashes being work-related – as they involve commercial vehicles
• Alcohol and drugs (including some medicines) can make you more tired without you realising it
When driving at night extra care should be taken to plan journeys and to make sure that you are not too tired. The research has shown that men aged below 30 are more likely to fall asleep at the wheel, and seem to be at a higher risk because they use the roads more at night. They are also more likely to press on with a journey when tired.
The findings also showed that driving between midnight and 6am presents a particular risk for sleep-related crashes as this is when your ‘body clock’ is in a natural trough. They found that all sleepy drivers are aware of their tiredness, particularly when they reach the stage of ‘fighting sleep’ (doing things to keep themselves awake, such as winding down the window). And they emphasise that opening the window for cold air or turning up the radio are of very limited benefit and sufficient only to find a safe place for a break.
Tips for drivers:
• Plan your journey to include a 15 minute break every two hours of driving.
• Drinking two cups of coffee or other high caffeine drink and having a rest to allow time for the caffeine to kick in are effective methods of combating tiredness.
• Have a good night’s sleep before setting out on a long journey.
• Remember the risks if you have to get up unusually early to start your trip, or have a long drive home after a full day’s work.
• Avoid making long trips between midnight- 6am and 2-4pm when natural alertness is low
• Share the driving if possible.
If you start to feel sleepy find a safe place to stop (not the hard shoulder of the motorway).