Road Safety Fatigue

Last updated: December 2021
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One in six crashes resulting in death and injury on motorways and A roads are fatigue related.

Most people are well aware of the risks of drinking and driving but driving whilst sleepy can be just as dangerous. In fact, research shows that even moderate sleep deprivation affects driving performance to the same degree as low-level alcohol intoxication.

And it doesn’t just affect lorry drivers or travelling salespeople – anyone can feel sleepy on the road.

You don’t need to completely fall asleep to cause an accident. Tiredness impacts on your driving ability, reaction times (being able to brake quickly), judgement (e.g. working out how sharp a bend is) and causes poor concentration which can increase your chances of having an accident.

Trouble focusing

Drifting across lanes

Struggling to recall driving

Fixating on driving towards lights on the road at night

You need to be fully alert and aware of what’s going on around you when driving so if you notice any of these signs then you are too sleepy to drive:

  • Trouble focusing
  • Drifting across lanes
  • Struggling to recall driving
  • Fixating on and driving towards lights on the road at night

What can you do

  • Don’t begin a long journey if you’re tired
  • If you’re driving a long distance, plan your trip and take regular breaks (around every two hours)
  • Avoid driving in the early hours of the morning around 4am and after the post-lunch energy dip between 2pm and 4pm. This is when sleep-related motoring accidents are most likely to occur
  • If you start to feel drowsy on your journey, pull over when it’s safe and legal to do so and take a power nap or get 20 minutes rest. Make sure you don’t set off as soon as you’ve woken, you need to become fully alert again before you can drive
  • Until you can find a safe space to pull into, focus on finding a safe place to stop, putting on some music on to perk you up, opening the windows for fresh air or turning on the air con to boost alertness are very short term measures! If you have a passenger, ask them to talk to you and ask questions. These shouldn’t be used as strategies to continue driving for miles but just to get to you a suitable space to take a break and/or nap
  • Stay hydrated and avoid high carb and sugary snacks that result in an energy slump
  • It’s important to get a good night’s sleep before attempting a long drive

How to get a good night’s sleep

While it’s important to get a good night’s sleep before a long drive, it’s essential that you prioritise sleep as part of your overall health and wellbeing and to avoid long-term fatigue.

We need sleep to function – both physically and mentally. Sleep regulates your mood, improves your memory but also maintains health, weight and energy levels.  Getting just one bad night’s sleep can impact how we feel the following day.  For more advice on getting a good night’s sleep click here.

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