Avoid the dangers of falling asleep at the wheel

Tiredness behind the wheel is now known to be a major contributory factor in crashes in the UK, with radical effects to your awareness, attention, reaction time and ability to control the vehicle.

Many studies in the last few years have concluded that fatigue is much more of a contributor to road accidents than previously thought. One study recently found that one in six crashes resulting in death or injury on major roads is fatigue-related, which when compared to a 2015 government study that only 4% of road fatalities are caused by the same reason, it shows how much more seriously the problem of fatigue behind the wheel is now being taken.

Research has shown that motorways and dual carriageways are the most common roads for sleep-related crashes. The monotonous road environment and lack of interruptions or driver stimulation can promote fatigue and cause ‘micro-sleeps’, which are short episodes of drowsiness or sleep that can last a fraction of a second or up to 30 seconds.

Fatigue while driving

There are many common influences on fatigue while motoring. As would be expected, early morning and late night driving will increase the chances of a fatigue-related road accident significantly; drivers at 6am are 20 times more likely to fall asleep at the wheel than at 10am.

A lack of sleep or disturbed sleep can also increase fatigue while driving, as well as stress, irregular sleep patterns, driving for long periods and medication.

To avoid the dangers of falling asleep at the wheel, make sure you take regular breaks to split up the journey when driving on a long, boring stretch of motorway. It may also be beneficial to plan an overnight stop on long journeys so that you can sleep off any fatigue you have and wake up fresh for the rest of the way the next morning. Research has shown that between 3am and 5am, and 2pm and 4pm, you are most prone to sleepiness. Therefore avoid driving between these peak times to ensure you’re less affected by tiredness.

Richard Gladman, head of driving and riding standards for IAM RoadSmart, stated: “Even the fittest of us need regular sleep to perform at our highest standards. Driving requires full concentration at all times and if you are tired, your ability to concentrate is reduced. Our internal body clock is usually set to deal with our normal lifestyle, extra care needs to be taken when driving during a time we would normally be at rest. Stop, rehydrate and rest if you need to.

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