Whilst the dangers of driving under the influence of drink or drugs or with the distraction of a phone are generally well known the consequences of driving when sleepy are often less highlighted. However, research recently carried out by the AA’s Charitable Trust shows that on UK roads many of us are drowsy when driving and hence bringing risk to ourselves and other road users.
Many people are fatigued on the way to work with sleep deprivation related accidents peaking in the early hours and after lunch. For others such as shift workers and long distance lorry drivers needing to drive when you would normally be sleeping makes it more difficult to stay awake at the wheel. People with a sleep related disorder or for those who take medication that has fatigue as a side effect may need to be extra vigilant and in some cases should report their condition to the DVLA.
When we are tired our judgments can be affected and our reactions slower. A large number of sleep related accidents are rear end crashes which makes sense if we were too drowsy to react in time or even missed the hazard altogether. Cases where a person has fallen asleep at the wheel can happen at high speed with the outcome more likely to bring serious injury or death.
Suggestions to help combat driving whilst drowsy and thus cut the risk of falling asleep at the wheel include common sense ideas such as ensuring you have enough sleep before you drive, taking breaks on long journeys or even avoid driving and making alternative arrangements for your trip. Turning up your radio or opening the window may boost you for a few moments but actually stopping and having a short nap or resting your eyes would be the safer alternative.
At this time of year when there is the added potential for accidents with snow or ice on the roads it makes perfect sense to have that extra ten minutes in bed, make sure you have a bite to eat and a drink before starting your journey. Remember though that a large meal can actually cause tiredness as can too much exercise.