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Driving Whilst Tired

By: Tracy Wilkinson - Updated: 1 Jun 2018 | comments*Discuss
Driving While Tired Fatigued Driving

Driving to work while still half asleep is something that lots of us do every single morning, and many motorists will admit to driving when we think we might actually be too tired to do so safely.

Most people don’t see it as a big issue and do it without a second thought, yet driving while tired is a serious problem that results in thousands of motoring accidents every single year.

Safe Driving

To drive a car you need to be alert, aware of what's going on around you, and able to concentrate on what you are doing. If you are overly tired then you are unlikely to be able to drive to a standard necessary to keep yourself, pedestrians and other road users safe.

Why is it so Dangerous?

Fatigue reduces your reaction times and makes you far less able to do things that would usually come easily to you and despite how quickly you think you can react, it's probably nowhere near the reality. Not to mention that if you choose to ignore the obvious risks of driving tired, then you could end up falling asleep at the wheel, which could leave you seriously injured or even killed. Of course you might escape injury yourself and kill another road user, leaving you facing criminal charges and a lifetime of 'what if's'.

So are you at Risk?

If you drive a company car or a truck, and/or work long shifts then statistically, you are at more risk of dropping off at the wheel than other drivers - but anyone who drives when they are tired, or travels over long distances without a suitable break is also running a high risk.

If you drive in the middle of the afternoon, or very early in the morning, this can add to your chances of fatigue-related accidents - as most incidents of this nature happen at these times. It's also dangerous to drive for long periods on monotonous roads such as motorways or dual carriageways - it's easier to drop off to sleep on this type of road than it is on curvy country lanes that demand your constant attention.

Another thing to remember about sleep-related motoring accidents is that the severity of accidents is usually increased because the sleeping driver generally doesn’t brake, or move, or do anything to avoid a collision which then occurs at a faster than normal speed - creating a bigger impact.

What Does the Law say About Driving While Tired?

There isn't a specific law that states that it is an offence to drive when you are tired, but the chances of a driver committing a driving offence while tired are increased. If you are found to have been asleep when an accident occurred, depending on the severity of the collision and any injuries sustained, you could find yourself charged with dangerous driving, the penalties for which can be severe.

What Can I Do to Keep Alert on a Long Journey?

  • You should make sure that you are in a fit state to drive, both mentally and physically. Try not to set off on any journeys if you feel that you are tired.
  • Even if you are a shift worker, try not to drive for long periods between the hours of 12.00 midnight and 8.00am because you are naturally more 'switched off' during this period.
  • If your journey is a couple of hours long, make sure you stop every 2 hours for at least 15 minutes.
  • If you need a rest, stop and have a sleep in services, or in a safe place. Please note, the hard shoulder of the motorway is not a safe place to stop and sleep - in any circumstances.

There are ways that make you feel like you have increased your alertness, but they are not always effective and so should not be used as a substitute for proper rest. These include:

  • Drinking a few cups of strong coffee – this will only work if you take at least 150mg of caffeine and even then will be effective only for a short time
  • Winding your window down to get some fresh air circulating and playing loud music while you drive - this is unlikely to have any real effect, but may make you feel like you are more ‘awake’ until you can find somewhere safe to rest.

What if the Police Stop Me?

The Police can find it very difficult to spot a tired driver. Several police forces in the UK are hoping to combat this by stopping erratic drivers and subjecting them to roadside impairment tests which can spot the tell-tale signs of sleepiness as well as those brought on by drugs, alcohol or prescribed medicines.

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[Add a Comment]
Found this blog useful. Hopefully to aid my situation. Having travelled just shy of 450 miles after nearly a full days work added in to this mix. At approx 95% motorway mileage and nearly 23:30 at night, I found myself nearly falling asleep at the wheel. I did the rightful duty as advised and pulled over in the services (Weatherby). My intention was to grap a quick hour and to continue the remaining 45ish miles. I was clearly so tires that I hadn't heard my phone alarm and slept a solid 3 hrs. It was dark and I parked in the least lit area to ensure some form of sleep and being less disturbed. I have now received a £100 PCN for overstayingby 58 minutes. At no point did I see a notice sign or any other form of indication stating a time limit. Should I simply refuse to pay and have mitigating circumstances or appeal which no doubt they may fight my appeal? What are my chances of winning? Thoughts please.
Wondering wheels - 1-Jun-18 @ 3:23 AM
I fell asleep on the wheel last week and banged my car into the wall it want a busy road just went pass the pavement and hit the wall, no body was hurt or injured, I was fine too, and police came and I told that I fell asleep, may b I have to face the court, m worried what is the chance of charges I will get?
Mary - 10-Oct-17 @ 5:40 PM
dave - Your Question:
I work driving hgv's on a night shift. People are stacked out with too much work, too many drops and not enough time alowences to cover slow traffic,occational lazy back door men and breaks. Although some of the info here is usefull, I'd like to know who on earth stops companys piling on too much work and not giving drivers realistic break time chances.

Our Response:
The police of course, do spot checks on tacographs etc to ensure driving times are adhered to. If you employer is expecting too much from you and your colleagues, you might want to consider jointly raising a complaint and/or contacting ACAS to see if it's worth taking additional action. As you say, the employment laws are useless if nobody can be bothered with them.
SaferMotoring - 27-Jan-16 @ 11:23 AM
I work driving hgv's on a night shift. People are stacked out with too much work, too many drops and not enough time alowences to cover slow traffic,occational lazy back door men and breaks.. Although some of the info here is usefull, I'd like to know who on earth stops companys piling on too much work and not giving drivers realistic break time chances.
dave - 26-Jan-16 @ 2:20 AM
I nearly fell asleep behind the wheel the other day but I had my special anti sleep alarm on and it sounded so I pulled over and had a break. They are not that expensive.
nikku - 16-Jun-14 @ 2:35 PM
I just discover this page and i find it very interesting. If all of the whole wolrd can follow these rules and respect them, we might not cut off totally the accident from all oue roads but we can reduce them. Its very educating this program. thanks alot for taking your time to let others share your experience in driving that remains the number one killer in the world.
ebonge - 11-Oct-13 @ 6:55 AM
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