Half of drivers
ignore basic advice to prevent deadly tiredness at the wheel
DRIVERS are being advised
to take simple steps to avoid falling asleep at the wheel as the
holiday season starts and many families prepare for long distance
travel to destinations across the UK and Europe.
Road safety charity Brake and Direct Line today reveal more than
half of drivers (55%) are ignoring basic advice to take rest breaks
at least every 2 hours on long journeys, while 1 in 19 (9%) don't
stop at all on long journeys unless they absolutely have to. Many
also admit failing to get enough sleep the night before a long
journey, as less than half (45%) make sure they get at least 7
Brake and Direct Line are warning families gearing up for long
holiday journeys that too little sleep and too few breaks radically
affects your ability to drive safely. After 5 hours' sleep you
only have a 1 in 10 chance of staying fully awake on a lengthy
► The survey of 1,000 drivers from
across the UK by Brake and Direct Line showed widespread complacency
about the risks of tired drivers on long journeys. It found:-
► Male drivers are far more likely
to drive for longer periods without stopping. 14% of male drivers
have driven for 6 hours or more without stopping, compared with 3%
of female drivers.
► Half of male drivers (50%) have
driven for 4 hours or more without stopping, compared with a 3rd
(31%) of females.
► A 3rd of drivers (35%) admit
sometimes or always trying to push on if they feel sleepy at the
wheel. 38% of males do this compared to 31% of females.
Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive, Brake, the road safety
charity, said:- "A large proportion of the driving public are
scarily confident they can push on through on long drives without
stopping. In reality, regular breaks; at least every 2 hours; are
essential for staying alert and awake, as is getting plenty of sleep
the night before. Sleepiness can catch you unawares at the wheel and
it only takes a couple of seconds on a motorway to cause absolute
carnage. The summer means long journeys for many families hoping to
catch some sun at the coast or abroad. Brake is warning that to make
sure you and your loved ones get there safely you need to allow
plenty of time to take it easy, take regular rest breaks, and ensure
you get a full night's sleep beforehand."
Rob Miles, head of Motor at Direct Line, commented:-
"Tiredness and driving are a deadly combination. Not only is there a
risk of falling asleep at the wheel, but when we are tired our
reactions and awareness of our surroundings are not as sharp as they
would normally be. Whilst tired drivers may think that stopping for
a break will increase their journey time, it's not worth the risk to
themselves, their passengers or other road users. It is better to
get there late than not to arrive at all."
Driver tiredness is one of the biggest killers on our roads. In the
UK driver tiredness is estimated to cause 1 in 5 deaths on trunk
roads. In 2011 in Great Britain it was reported 84 people were
killed and 420 suffered serious injuries in tiredness related
crashes, although the real figure could be higher, because it can be
difficult to prove when a crash is caused by a driver falling
asleep. They tend to be high speed crashes, because drivers do not
brake before crashing, so the risk of death or serious injury is
Brake supports recent government proposals to allow drivers who
oversleep at motorway service stations to pay for their parking
retrospectively to avoid a fine.
Brake is calling for more to be
done to help drivers by creating more stopping places for drivers to
take a break and more government advertising on the risks of driving
tired, raising awareness about the importance of not embarking on a
journey while tired, and steps to take if you start to feel drowsy
at the wheel. We also need greater crash protection on trunk roads,
such as longer crash barriers over bridges, to reduce the severity
of crashes if they do happen.
Action to tackle tired driving
among fleet drivers is also needed because an estimated 4 in 10
tired driver crashes involves a commercial vehicle driver. Brake
recommends regular testing of people who drive for work for sleep
apnoea, a treatable condition that makes falling asleep at the wheel
much more likely, thought to be particularly widespread among HGV
drivers. Brake also believes the rules controlling hours that can be
driven by truck and bus drivers should be extended to cover fleet
drivers in vans and cars.
If you are driving you should get plenty of sleep before any
journey, plan your journey to include time for adequate rest and
don't set out if you are already tired. Take rest breaks at least
every 2 hours for a minimum of 15 minutes.
If you feel tired when driving, listen to the warning signs straight
away and stop for a break somewhere safe as soon as you can. Sleep
ensues faster than you think; trying to fight off sleep by opening
the window or listening to the radio puts you at risk of 'microsleeps',
when you nod off for 2 to 30 seconds without remembering it.
Microsleeps can be fatal, at 70mph, a driver travels 200m in 6
seconds. However, fatigue can even affect your ability to drive
safely long before microsleeps occur.
If you start to feel sleepy while driving stop for at least a 15
minute break somewhere safe. If you drink caffeine, drink 2 cups of
coffee or preferably a high caffeine energy drink, then take a 10 to
15 minute snooze. By the time you wake up any caffeine will have
kicked in and you may feel alert enough to continue your journey. If
you still feel tired, or you still have a long way to go, you should
stay put and try to find somewhere to get a good night's sleep.
Caffeine is a temporary drug and its effects do not last long. Sleep
is the only long-term cure to tiredness.
In April 2008, Mark, 32, from Thetford, Norfolk, was just 10 minutes
away from home, travelling back after visiting friends in
Hertfordshire. The driver behind Mark watched him drive steadily for
around a mile and then saw his car drift across the road. As Mark
swerved to return to the correct side of the road he drove into a 40
tonne vehicle driving in the opposite direction. He died instantly.
Barry Love, step father of Mark, said:- "I have driven a lot
for work so was aware of the effect that tiredness can have when
driving, but Mark's death really brought this home. It is awful to
think that something so easily avoidable took Mark away from us, and
caused such pain and devastation to our family. The issue of driver
fatigue needs far more public awareness, as tiredness can come on
very quickly. If you notice any signs of tiredness before setting
off, please rethink whether the journey is essential, or if you're
already driving, take a rest as soon as you possibly can."
information can be found via:-
University Sleep Research Centre:-lboro.ac.uk/departments/hu/groups/sleep.
Department for Transport:-
Figures are reported in the Road Casualties Great Britain Annual
Report 2011, Department for Transport, 2012.
See Motorway service areas could lose power to fine motorists, The
Respironics SASA research, BBC Real Story with Fiona Bruce, BBC1, 21
Fatigue and Road Safety:- A Critical Analysis of Recent Evidence,
Department for Transport, 2011.