Most of us would admit to sometimes driving when tired but may not be aware of just how dangerous it can be.

Shockingly, research suggests that driver tiredness after a few hours has the same effect as being over the drink-driving limit. However unlike with alcohol, police have no way of measuring whether a driver is impaired by fatigue.¹

Young drivers are most susceptible to driver fatigue because young people need more sleep in general, and so they are more affected by sleep loss.²

Why is driving when tired so dangerous?

Fatigue reduces a driver’s reaction time, alertness and concentration. It also weakens ability to assess risks and so may lead to poor decision-making while on the road.

Additionally if you fall asleep at the wheel and crash, your injuries are likely to be more severe. This is because you will not see that a potential collision could happen, and so you won’t be able to take any action to prevent it.³

Did you know…

Research suggests that almost 20% of accidents on major roads are sleep-related.⁴

You can nod off at the wheel without even realising it…

A recent study found that almost half of male drivers admit to experiencing ‘micro-sleeps’ at the wheel.⁵

Micro-sleep is an episode of light sleep lasting 5-10 seconds. The brain goes to sleep involuntarily, and then the person will suddenly jolt awake.

Drivers are particularly vulnerable to micro-sleeps as the act of driving itself can be monotonous, particularly on motorways.⁶

Safer driving tips for fatigue when you drive

Tips to avoid driving when tired:

  • If you feel at all sleepy, pull over as soon as it is safe to do so and take a break
  • Get a good night’s sleep before going on a long journey
  • Plan your journey to take sufficient breaks – with an insurethebox policy, you could earn more Bonus Miles if you take breaks on long journeys.
  • Natural sleepiness occurs after eating a large meal so be cautious when driving after mealtimes
  • If you are taking medication that can cause drowsiness, make sure that you follow the advice given in the manufacturer’s information leaflet – more information here.
  • Avoid taking long journeys between midnight and 6am as this is when natural alertness is at a minimum
  • If you decide to have a break, The Highway Code recommends drinking two cups of caffeinated coffee and taking a short nap of at least 15 minutes before continuing your journey.⁷

But remember, the only real cure for fatigue is proper sleep – a caffeinated drink or a nap is only a short-term solution.

Case study:

Recently, motorist Paul Kightley slept for three hours at a motorway services area on the M3. Two weeks later he received a penalty fine for £100 for overstaying his parking time. He believes he was doing the right thing – as mentioned above, drivers are recommended to take a break if they feel drowsy.⁸

Do you think this penalty was fair? Let us know what you think in the comment box below.

For more information on driving when tired, check out this handy leaflet from the DVLA: “Tiredness can kill − Advice for drivers




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