Do not drive when you're tired

Car driving at night on quiet, poorly-lit road.

Published 9 April 2021
Last updated 5 April 2022

20% of accidents are fatigue related. Make sure you do not become a statistic by reading this blog. Learn strategies including journey planning and rest breaks.

As our regular readers will know, we occasionally devote a bit of blog space to giving out general driver safety advice. So, in that spirit, this week’s post is all about driver fatigue and what you can do about it.

First, the facts: research suggests that almost 20% of accidents on major roads are sleep related.* By anyone’s estimation, that’s quite a lot.

And there’s even worse news: sleep-related incidents are more likely to result in death or serious injury than those that are not sleep related.*

Clearly, the possibility of falling asleep at the wheel is something that should not be overlooked, so what can you do to stay bright eyed and bushy tailed throughout your journey? Here’s some handy advice.

  • Plan your trip – do not just get in the car and hope for the best. Make sure you schedule in rest stops every 2 hours; do not push yourself to complete your journey without taking a break. Driving is an intensive task that requires you to process lots of information at once, so give yourself enough time to get your energy back up before you continue your journey.
  • The peak times for accidents are in the early hours of the morning and shortly after lunch. If you really have to drive at these times, take extra-special care and remember the risks.
  • Avoid making long journeys between midnight and 6am, when you’d usually be resting.
  • If you do start to feel sleepy, stop in a safe place and take a break.
  • The most effective ways to counter sleepiness are caffeine and a short nap. The combination of a caffeinated drink, such as coffee (decaf will not do!), followed by a short nap of up to 15 minutes is particularly effective. Caffeine takes 20 to 30 minutes to be absorbed and act on the brain, which gives you the opportunity to take a nap.
  • If it’s not possible to stop as soon as you realise how tired you are, open a window and get some fresh air, then stop at the earliest safe opportunity.

Struggling to stay awake can also be a sign of an underlying health condition. Contact your GP if you’re at all worried about your sleep patterns, especially if you think it may affect your safety and that of other drivers.

You can find more information about safe driving techniques in The Official DVSA Guide to Driving – the essential skills. For the official guide to using our roads safely and effectively, see The Official Highway Code.

*Visit Think! website

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