Fatigue

Wake up to the signs of tiredness

Half of all UK drivers surveyed admitted to having driven after less than five hours’ sleep. Many people continue to risk driving while tired, despite around 20% of accidents on major roads being fatigue-related. In fact, research has shown that driving tired can be as dangerous as drink-driving.

Sleep-related accidents are more likely to result in a fatality or serious injury, as sleepy drivers are less likely to apply their brakes or take evasive manoeuvres. All drivers will have warning signs that they are getting tired: nodding head, heavy eye lids, yawning, drifting concentration. If you continue to drive while your ability is impaired by fatigue, you are risking not just your life, but those of the other road users around you.

Be aware that driver fatigue isn’t just caused by lack of sleep. Travelling on motorways and other long, straight roads, especially in modern cars which are quiet, smooth and comfortable, can induce drowsiness and cause your mind to drift. Some medications, a heavy meal or a long meeting before you travel will also make you feel tired.

So what can you do to avoid fatigue while driving?

  • Make sure you’ve had a decent night’s sleep before you travel.
  • Plan your journey to include a 15 minute break every 2 hours.
  • Make those breaks proper rests, not just a quick toilet break and a refuel at the petrol station.
  • Avoid long journeys between midnight and 6 am and 2-4 pm, when your body will be naturally sleepy.
  • Don’t drink any alcohol at all before you drive, and avoid medication that causes drowsiness.
  • Drink plenty of water. Dehydrated driving can have the same results as drink-driving.
  • Plan to share the driving with a passenger if you can.
  • Don’t begin your journey if you already feel tired.

What can you do if you start feeling sleepy while driving? 

  • Find a safe place to stop – not the hard shoulder of the motorway. Opening a window or turning up the radio will only help for a very brief period, so pull over as soon as you can.
  • Drink 2 cups of coffee or caffeinated energy drinks and have a 15 minute nap while they get to work. 15 minutes is the optimum length, as a longer nap will send you into a deep sleep and leave you groggier when you wake up.
  • Consider stopping overnight and continuing your journey the next day.

 

Driving For Work

About 40% of sleep-related accidents involve commercial vehicles. You may feel pressured to make deadlines at the expense of safety. Check whether your employer has a policy to help prevent fatigue-related accidents, and ensure you take the recommended amount of breaks while driving.

Somerset Road Safety offer bespoke Mind Your Business workshops for employers wanting to improve standards and safety in occupational driving. Find out more here.

​For a helpful download on how to combat driver tiredness click here

 

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