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Nodding off at the wheel – the truth revealed

One in six drivers has fallen asleep at the wheel, according to a new survey by vehicle CCTV firm SmartWitness.

A further 42% of motorists admitted driving while they felt drowsy and were in danger of nodding off, with only half (48%) heeding Government warnings to stop and take a break when they are tired.

A further 47% of those surveyed admitted they had been a danger to themselves or other road users as a result of tiredness at some point since passing their test.

And it would seems the problem is worse among men. Just 10% of women have fallen asleep while driving compared to almost a quarter of men (24%).

The vast majority of drivers (89%) say they drive when they know they are tired because they have to for work or for their home life.

The most popular way to combat tiredness behind the wheel while still driving is to open the car window (used by 48% of drivers), followed by having a coffee (37%), chewing gum (24%), turning up the radio (16%) turning the car heater to cold (12%).

The research also revealed that nearly half (47%) of respondents were not getting the recommended 7-8 hours sleep a night.

It is estimated that driver fatigue is a contributory factor in as many as one in five driver deaths every year.

Furthermore, tiredness-related collisions are three times more likely to be fatal or result in serious injury because of the high impact speed and lack of avoiding action.

SmartWitness has devised a new system that recognises that the driver’s eyes are not on the road and sends out alerts to wake him up.

The DDC100 unit is about 8cm long by 7cm tall and sits on the dashboard, and can be fitted to cars, van or HGVs. It uses facial recognition software to detect when the driver’s eyes have looked away from the road for more than three seconds.

When this happens it sends out an audible alert and when connected to a fleet management system it will also send an alert to the fleet manager that the driver is suffering from fatigue. The DDC100 also recognises when the driver is using a mobile phone at the wheel and is distracted for other reasons whilst driving.

About Gareth Herincx

Gareth is a versatile journalist, copywriter and digital editor who's worked across the media in newspapers, magazines, TV, teletext, radio and online. After long stints at the BBC, GMTV and ITV, he now specialises in motoring.

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