Driver fatigue is a serious problem resulting in many thousands of road accidents each year. Sleepiness reduces reaction time, alertness, concentration and decision making, all crucial driving skills.
Research by fatigue management consultancy, AWAKE, has revealed that drowsiness is the single greatest cause of accidents on our roads.
Young male drivers, truck drivers, company car drivers and shift workers are most at risk of falling asleep while driving. However, any driver traveling long distances, or whilst tired, are at risk of a sleep related accident.
The early hours of the morning and the middle of the afternoon are the peak times for fatigue accidents, and long journeys on monotonous roads, particularly motorways, are the most likely to result in a driver falling asleep.
One in five crashes on monotonous roads (trunk roads and motorways) is thought to be caused by tired drivers. It is estimated that one in three crashes involve a vehicle being driven for work purposes.
Two hours continuous driving is the maximum recommended by RAC Risk Management. Don't drive any more than 8-10 hours in a single day.
Sleep related accidents tend to be more severe, possibly because of the higher speeds involved and because the driver is unable to take any avoiding action, or even brake, prior to collision.
The Highway Code gives advice under the following paragraph:
80. Driving when you are tired greatly increases your accident risk. To minimise this risk:
Make sure you are fit to drive. Do not undertake a long journey (longer than an hour) if you feel tired.
Avoid undertaking long journeys between midnight and 6am, when natural alertness is at a minimum.
Plan your journey to take sufficient breaks. A minimum break of at least 15 minutes after every two hours of driving in recommended
If you feel sleepy, stop in a safe place. Do not stop on the hard shoulder of a motorway
The most effective ways to counter sleepiness are to take a short nap (up to 15 minutes) or drink, for example, two cups of strong coffee. Fresh air, exercise or turning up the radio may help for a short time, but are not as effective.
To counter real fatigue a full sleep cycle is the only remedy, although not whilst at the wheel!