Drivers falling asleep at the wheel account for 20% of crashes on Britain’s roads.
Government research shows an estimated 300 people a year are killed where a driver has fallen asleep at the wheel and drivers are 50% more likely to die or suffer serious injury because a sleeping driver doesn’t react before a crash.
The danger zone for 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.
The sleep unit at Loughborough University said 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.
Their research shows:
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
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)
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).
Download a driver fatigue pdf factsheet at www.iam.org.uk/factsheet