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Tiredness When Driving Can Kill

By: Tracy Wilkinson - Updated: 28 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Motorists Falling Asleep Tiredness When

It might surprise you to find out that around 20% of the accidents that occur on motorways happen as a direct result of motorists falling asleep at the wheel.

Unbelievable as it may seem, a survey taken in Ireland revealed that almost 2 in every 5 motorists said they had suffered from driver fatigue over the last year, and 1 in 8 actually admitted to nodding off at the wheel of their vehicle - at least once.

Ironically, 86.9% of the drivers who were questioned answered that they considered themselves to be excellent, very good, or good drivers.

As research into tired driving habits shows that too little sleep can be as detrimental to a driver's responses as drinking alcohol, it really isn't an issue that we can afford to take lightly.

1 in 5 crashes on motorways are thought to be caused by tired drivers and they are typically identified by the driver running off the road, or smashing into the back of another vehicle. Of course, the collisions tend to be high-speed, because the driver is not alert enough to brake before the crash occurs.

So Who is at Risk?

Typically, the highest risk group for sleep related vehicle accidents is young men. These males, mostly under 30 years old, are likely to crash after little or no sleep, and tend to be involved in early-morning accidents. Older men tend to be at risk during the mid-afternoon, when they begin to come drowsy and start to suffer from low blood sugar.

This doesn't mean that it's only men who are involved in these types of accidents. Of course, we all need sleep to function properly, so if you drive a car, it's perfectly feasible that it could be you - be you male/female/young or old - we're all at risk if we're not getting enough sleep.

So What Can I do to Reduce The Risk?

  • You're going to know the first answer before you even ask it. Make sure you're getting enough sleep, and don't even think about setting off on a long journey without getting a good night's sleep first.
  • Plan a break into your journey - 15 minutes for every two hours driving.
  • Remember that the risks of tiredness increase if you have to get up unusually early to begin your trip or if you have a long drive home after a full days work.
  • Avoid making trips between midnight and 6 in the morning, and 2-5 in the afternoon - these are usually downtimes and you will not be as alert as you should be.
  • If you can, share long drives
  • If you feel sleepy or drowsy find a safe place to stop and sleep as soon as you can. (Not the hard shoulder!)
  • Drinking a few cups of coffee, or high caffeine drink and allowing time for the caffeine to become effective (20-30 mins) can be a good method of staying awake. Unlike opening the window or turning up the radio - they are likely to have little, if any effect on a sleepy driver.
  • Remember that if you are tired, alcohol will affect your body far more than usual, to the point where one drink when tired can have a similar effect to four or five drinks when you are at normal levels of alertness.
  • Don't rely on a 'mind over matter' technique to stay awake. You're more likely to lull yourself off to sleep than you are to keep yourself awake. You have no control when you are too tired to stay awake.
Research has indicated that company car drivers are the worst for falling asleep - presumably because they spend half their lives in a car - and burn the candle at both ends. They are more likely to be involved in sleep-related accidents than private motorists. Irregular night drivers are far more likely to suffer from driver fatigue due to body-clock issues than those who work night shifts on a more regular basis - they just get used to it.

So next time you're heading off in your car and you start to yawn - ask yourself if you are really safe to be on the road. And if you think the answer might be no - leave the car at home and take public transport or get a lift instead.

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