A WHOPPING three out of 10 crashes on British motorways and major A-roads involving a drowsy driver result in at least one fatality or serious injury.
And according to new research, only accidents featuring drugged drivers or those using a mobile phone are more likely to have a more catastrophic impact.
The AA Charitable Trust analysed casualty figures for roads maintained by Highways England in 2017, and found fatigue was the most common driver impairment contributing to collisions resulting in casualties, with 22 deaths and 132 serious injuries.
Collisions involving drowsy drivers can have particularly severe consequences as there is often no attempt to slow down before it occurs.
And as many as one in eight drivers admit to dozing off behind the wheel.
But by watching out for a few warning signs, Brits can avoid a catastrophic collision.
Tips to avoid falling asleep at the wheel:
IAM RoadSmart’s advice on how to avoid the dangers of drowsy driving:
- Extreme tiredness can lead to micro-sleeps – a short episode of drowsiness or sleep that could last a fraction of a second or up to 30 seconds. A car driving at 70 mph will travel 31 meters per second, giving plenty of time to cause a serious crash during a micro-sleep.
- The effects of losing one or two hours of sleep a night on a regular basis can lead to chronic sleepiness over time. So ensure you are well rested and feeling fit and healthy before you set off.
- Make sure you take regular rest breaks to split up the journey when driving on a long, boring stretch of a motorway. It’s good practise to stop at least every two hours and it’s essential to take a break before the drowsiness sets in.
- Plan an overnight stop. If you feel too fatigued to carry on driving, book yourself into a hotel at the next service station and sleep it off. It’s good to note that a caffeine high may be a quick fix, but it is not a long term solution and certainly no substitute for proper sleep.
- You’re bound to be tired after a full day at work, so avoid setting out on a long drive after you have finished for the day. It’s best to start your journey earlier on, and when you’re more alert.
- Avoid driving between the two peak times for sleepiness. These are between 3am and 5am and also between 2pm and 4pm.
- If you have taken prescribed medication, seek advice from your GP as to whether you should be driving or not. If bought over the counter, read the instructions on the pack or speak to a pharmacist.
The Trust warned winding down a window or turning up a radio are not effective remedies for tiredness.
It advised tired motorists to stop at the next safe place, drink two cups of coffee – or an equivalent caffeinated drink – and take a 15-minute nap.
Edmund King, AA Charitable Trust director, said: “Drowsy driving is the hidden killer on our roads and, due to it being under-reported, the true picture is estimated to be even worse than these figures show.
“Our own research has shown one in eight drivers admit to falling asleep when driving. Falling asleep at the wheel, even for just a few seconds, is incredibly dangerous.
“Crashes involving a drowsy driver tend to be catastrophic because a driver who is asleep does not brake or steer away from anything.
“Awareness of the dangers is key to start solving the problem. Put simply, drivers need to wake up to the dangers that drowsy driving poses.”