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Thousands of motorists risking serious injury

New research has revealed a growing number of UK drivers putting their own, and other road users' lives at risk by driving further and longer whilst tired.

In the lead-up to bank holiday season, the RAC 'Sleepy Heads' report revealed that British motorists are pushing themselves to the limit by driving an average of 350 miles in a single journey without taking a break, as well as ignoring the tell-tale warning signs of driver sleepiness.

The research of 1,000 motorists reveals that:

  • Nearly half of drivers (46%) admit to taking to the wheel whilst feeling drowsy
  • Over one third of drivers (34%) have been close to falling asleep at the wheel
  • One in ten (11%) have driven over 500 miles in a single journey without taking a break, with the biggest risk takers being men aged 35-64 years old
  • One in five drivers (20%) are completely unaware there are some simple steps that they can take to stay alert

    Driver fatigue is often overlooked by motorists, with a third (30%) of drivers now prepared to drive greater distances and 11% clocking up an extra 200 miles per journey compared to two years ago.

    Jim Horne, director of Loughborough University's sleep research centre said: ‘Motorists who ignore the obvious signs of tiredness and push themselves to the limit are taking serious risks. They don't seem to realise that crashes involving falling asleep at the wheel are more likely to be fatal because of the absence of braking and greater speed at impact.

    ‘Our studies have shown that drivers are particularly vulnerable in the small hours of the morning when the body clock is at its lowest, and especially on dull monotonous roads. There is also a 'dip' in the mid-afternoon, when the risk of these crashes is also higher. Motorists' increasing tendency to push themselves to the limit, because of work pressures, is again very worrying, and in this respect, employers should bear a greater responsibility in ensuring the safety of their staff.”

    To help UK drivers to avoid the perils of driver fatigue, the RAC recommends the following advice for staying awake:

    1. Plan your journey to include a 15-minute break every two hours of driving.

    2. If you start to feel sleepy find a safe place to stop (not the hard shoulder of the motorway) as soon as possible.

    3. Drink two cups of coffee or other high caffeine drink and have a 10-15 minute rest to allow time for the caffeine to kick in.

    4. Have a good night's sleep before setting out on a long journey.

    5. Although it might seem like a good way to beat the traffic, avoid making long trips between midnight- 6am and 2-4pm when natural alertness is low.

    6. Share the driving if possible.

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