A SHOCKING one in eight drivers have admitted to falling asleep whilst they’ve been driving.
The AA Charitable Trust has now launched a campaign highlighting the dangers of feeling fatigued behind the wheel.
Nearly 40 per cent of motorists told the breakdown service that they’ve been so exhausted while driving that they’ve feared falling asleep.
One driver who knows only too well the dangers of driving when tired is 37-year-old John Blackwell.
At midnight he started his 3.5-hour journey home to Derby from training in Norwich. But John only realised he had forgotten some things back at his hotel an hour into his drive.
At about 6:30am, the then-18-year-old decided to pull into a lay-by to sleep for an hour.
Tips to avoid fatigue at the wheel
- Stop in a safe place every two hours, not on a motorway hard shoulder
- Drink two cups of coffee, or another caffeinated drink
- Take a 15-20 minute nap if feeling tired
- Don’t drive more than eight hours in a day
- Don’t start a long journey late at night
- Avoid heavy meals before driving long distances
John, who is now a driving instructor, said: “I missed my girlfriend, felt ill and had fallen out with the guy running the training course so I just decided to go home, despite being tired at the start of the journey.
“I realised by the time I got to Leicester the second time that I couldn’t keep going any longer and needed to rest, but when I woke up from my sleep I was still very tired.
“However, I jumped straight into the driver’s seat so I could avoid rush hour traffic.
“The last thing I remember is setting off and then hearing a massive bang and saw the front of a truck crushing my bonnet.”
His car was spun round, and smashed into a lamppost following the collision with a lorry.
The emergency services dragged John out of the side window and he was taken to hospital with three vertebrae in his spine out of place.
He added: “I was lucky it wasn’t any worse. I always tell my pupils the story to highlight how dangerous driving tired can be.”
The AA Charitable Trust is now urging drivers to stop in a safe place – as opposed to a motorway hard shoulder – and to take break at the first sign of fatigue.
Having two cups of coffee, or equally caffeinated drinks, are recommended as well as a 15 to 20 minute nap before continuing your journey.
You should stop driving every two hours or so, especially if you don’t normally drive long distances.
You’re most likely to feel tired between 2am and 6am, and again between 2pm and 4pm – as that’s when most internal body clocks naturally promotes fatigue, according to sleep scientist Dr Katharina Lederle.
Lorry drivers are prevented from driving more than nine hours a day and working or a total of 13 hours.
However, the AA recommends that non-professional drivers limit their journeys to no more than eight hours a day.
The awareness project follows the most recent Government figures on road accidents, which reveal that 53 fatal accidents occurred last year because of tired drivers.
Just over 350 serious crashes also took place on UK roads alongside more than 1,200 slight accidents because of fatigue.
While there isn’t a motoring law that can convict tired drivers specifically, you will face up to 14 years imprisonment for causing a fatal accident when tired, under the penalty for dangerous driving.
The DVLA must also be notified if you have a medical condition that makes you drowsy.
You should wary of painkillers and cold medicines that cause drowsiness as well, which could land you an unlimited fine and a driving ban.