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Driver tiredness - the symptoms and how to avoid a catastrophe

Falling asleep at the wheel for 30 seconds at 60mph means you’d drive half a mile with your eyes closed. Even a short three second nap you’d cover the length of a football pitch.

Despite the obvious consequences one in eight (13%) UK drivers admit falling asleep at the wheel while two fifths (37%) say they have been scared they would fall asleep when driving.

New research published by the AA Charitable Trust has prompted a nationwide campaign alerting drivers to the dangers of drowsy driving.

Edmund King, AA Charitable Trust director, said: “One quarter of fatal crashes are sleep related, so drowsiness is one of the most under-estimated risks on the roads. Tiredness is a fact of life at some point for most of us and it is crucial we know how to manage it in relation to driving.

“Crashes involving a drowsy driver tend to be catastrophic. If a driver has fallen asleep at the wheel they do not brake before an impact and make no attempt to steer away from a collision.

“Simple measures can help alleviate the risks. Awareness of the problem is the first step, which is why we have launched this campaign and created an advert highlighting the dangers.

“Winding down the window, singing and turning up the radio are not remedies to tiredness – rather a symptom in themselves. If you feel tiredness creeping up on you when driving then stop and take a break.”

The latest road casualty statistics show drowsy drivers contributed to 53 fatal and 351 serious crashes in 2017 but it is widely accepted the true figure for fatigue related crashes is much higher due to under-reporting. In fact, it is estimated that up to 25% of fatal accidents are caused by drivers who have fallen asleep at the wheel.

If you find yourself winding down the window or turning up the radio these are a symptom of tiredness. You need to take it as a sign that you are too tired and need to stop at the next safe place; have two cups of coffee (or equivalent caffeinated drink) and close your eyes for around 15 minutes.

Dr Katharina Lederle, sleep expert at Somnia and author of Sleep Sense, said: “The simple truth is the only long-term cure for sleepiness is sleep and drivers are not able to fight it off by opening the window or turning up the radio.

“Drinking caffeine and having a short nap before the caffeine effect kicks in - about 20 minutes - is a short-term solution. It can help drivers increase their alertness sufficiently to carry on driving for another hour or two. But this is no substitute for proper sleep.

“There are certain times of day when the risk of driver fatigue is highest, specifically between 2am and 6am and 2pm and 4pm, when the internal body clock is promoting sleepiness.”

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Posted on 5th November 2018 at 11:23 AM

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