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Sleeping drivers account for 20% of road accidents

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

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