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Hard-hitting safety campaign targets drowsy drivers

Drowsy driver - AA Charitable Trust

One in eight (13%) of UK drivers admit to falling asleep at the wheel, according to new research by the AA Charitable Trust.

Nearly two fifths (37%) of motorists say they have been so tired they have been scared they would fall asleep when driving.

The research has been launched as part of a nationwide campaign to alert drivers to the dangers of drowsy driving.

Driving a car

The latest road casualty statistics show drowsy drivers contributed to 53 fatal and 351 serious crashes in 2017, though it’s 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.

Men are three times as likely as women to say they have fallen asleep at the wheel (17% compared to 5%).

Young drivers, aged 18-to-24, are the most likely to say being very tired does not affect their driving ability (13% compared to 2% of all drivers).

They are also the most likely age group to say they normally carry on regardless if they feel tired while driving (18% compared to 3% of all drivers).

Drivers who have been affected by tiredness say:

  • More than a half (57%) stopped for a break as soon as they realised they might be too tired to drive
    (just 34% of 18-24-year olds said this)
  • A third (36%) said they felt fine when they started their journey and their drowsiness took
    them by surprise (higher among young drivers at 45% for 18-24-year-olds)
  • One in 10 (11%) knew they were tired when they began their journey (29% of 18-24-year olds; 15% of women and 9% of men)
  • More than a fifth (23%) said they had been driving for more than two hours without a break
    when they were affected by tiredness (25% of men and 19% of women)

Top five reasons for driving tired are:

1. A long/hard day at work (39%)
2. Monotony of the journey (33%)
3. Late night driving (27%)
4. Trying to cover too much distance in one day (27%)
5. Lack of sleep the night before (26%)

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.”

Dr Katharina’s Top Sleep Tips

1) Identify your personal sleep window: how much sleep do you need and when do you sleep
best? Stick to these times weekday and weekend.
2) Get out in the natural sunlight for about 30 minutes during the earlier part of the day. Getting
lunch from the café that is a little further away is where you want to go.
3) Having one or two coffees during the morning is ok (if you enjoy coffee), but then cut it out
after lunch. Be aware that tea and energy drinks also contain caffeine!
4) During the day, take regular mini-breaks to reduce stress levels. You don’t have to wait for the
evening to relax.
5) In the evening it is best to switch off your phone, tablet and laptop at least one hour before
going to bed. (Note: Bedtime is often different to sleep time.) If you really need to use an LED device in
the evening, install a blue light filter and lower the brightness to reduce the light input.
6) Have a healthy, balanced diet. Keep regular meal times, meaning have something for breakfast,
eat lunch, and avoid eating late in the evening.
7) Exercise regularly; and if done in the evening, allow enough time to wind-down.

AA advice for tired drivers

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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