Did you know driving whilst tired causes more road accidents in the UK than drug-driving?
A 2015 study by the Department for Transport found 20% of accidents on major UK roads were related to fatigue. This is 2% greater than those caused by drugs (18%). Of those accidents, 40% involved commercial vehicles (such as vans, lorries and coaches) which often require their drivers to work long hours on lack of sleep.
The figures revealed 68 deaths on UK roads were a factor of fatigue: one more than those who were caused by illegal or medicinal drugs. But tiredness behind the wheel doesn’t only cause fatalities. An additional 435 people were seriously injured, while 2,279 people suffered minor injuries due to driving fatigue. On the other hand, only 350 people sustained major injuries from drug related incidents, with a further 997 recording minor injuries. But why is there such a difference in numbers?
This could be due to strict drug driving laws, introduced in England and Wales in March 2015, promoting ‘zero tolerance’. Those caught drug-driving could face a minimum ban of 12 months, an unlimited fine, or even six months in prison. Therefore, many people are calling for stricter laws to help dissuade tired drivers from getting behind the wheel too.
But what can you do to avoid falling asleep whilst driving?
First of all, it’s important to notice the symptoms of tiredness. For example, yawning, rubbing your eyes or frequent blinking, drifting from your lane and missing exits or traffic signs. Ignoring these signs could result in accident, often caused by reduced reaction times and attention levels, as well as the inability to judge risks.
Obviously, if you feel at all tired, the safest thing to avoid getting behind the wheel in the first place. However, if fatigue hits you whilst you are driving, pull over at the nearest services or lay-by and rest you eyes before returning to the road. To avoid a warm and cosy environment, keep your car on the cool side: open your windows to get some fresh air for a boost of energy.
By planning ahead, you can prevent unnecessary fatigue. Ensure you get 7-8 hours of sleep the night before, and arrange a car-share with a friend or family member should your journey be an especially long one. While caffeine will help with fatigue, it is not a definitive solution. If all else fails, follow Highway Code rule number 91: they recommend taking a 15 minute break (minimum!) after every two hours of driving.