Driving to work while still half asleep is something that lots of us do every single morning, and many motorists will admit to driving when we think we might actually be too tired to do so safely.
Most people don’t see it as a big issue and do it without a second thought, yet driving while tired is a serious problem that results in thousands of motoring accidents every single year.
To drive a car you need to be alert, aware of what's going on around you, and able to concentrate on what you are doing. If you are overly tired then you are unlikely to be able to drive to a standard necessary to keep yourself, pedestrians and other road users safe.
Why is it so Dangerous?
Fatigue reduces your reaction times and makes you far less able to do things that would usually come easily to you and despite how quickly you think you can react, it's probably nowhere near the reality. Not to mention that if you choose to ignore the obvious risks of driving tired, then you could end up falling asleep at the wheel, which could leave you seriously injured or even killed. Of course you might escape injury yourself and kill another road user, leaving you facing criminal charges and a lifetime of 'what if's'.
So are you at Risk?
If you drive a company car or a truck, and/or work long shifts then statistically, you are at more risk of dropping off at the wheel than other drivers - but anyone who drives when they are tired, or travels over long distances without a suitable break is also running a high risk.
If you drive in the middle of the afternoon, or very early in the morning, this can add to your chances of fatigue-related accidents - as most incidents of this nature happen at these times. It's also dangerous to drive for long periods on monotonous roads such as motorways or dual carriageways - it's easier to drop off to sleep on this type of road than it is on curvy country lanes that demand your constant attention.
Another thing to remember about sleep-related motoring accidents is that the severity of accidents is usually increased because the sleeping driver generally doesn’t brake, or move, or do anything to avoid a collision which then occurs at a faster than normal speed - creating a bigger impact.
What Does the Law say About Driving While Tired?
There isn't a specific law that states that it is an offence to drive when you are tired, but the chances of a driver committing a driving offence while tired are increased. If you are found to have been asleep when an accident occurred, depending on the severity of the collision and any injuries sustained, you could find yourself charged with dangerous driving, the penalties for which can be severe.
What Can I Do to Keep Alert on a Long Journey?
- You should make sure that you are in a fit state to drive, both mentally and physically. Try not to set off on any journeys if you feel that you are tired.
- Even if you are a shift worker, try not to drive for long periods between the hours of 12.00 midnight and 8.00am because you are naturally more 'switched off' during this period.
- If your journey is a couple of hours long, make sure you stop every 2 hours for at least 15 minutes.
- If you need a rest, stop and have a sleep in services, or in a safe place. Please note, the hard shoulder of the motorway is not a safe place to stop and sleep - in any circumstances.
There are ways that make you feel like you have increased your alertness, but they are not always effective and so should not be used as a substitute for proper rest. These include:
- Drinking a few cups of strong coffee – this will only work if you take at least 150mg of caffeine and even then will be effective only for a short time
- Winding your window down to get some fresh air circulating and playing loud music while you drive - this is unlikely to have any real effect, but may make you feel like you are more ‘awake’ until you can find somewhere safe to rest.
What if the Police Stop Me?
The Police can find it very difficult to spot a tired driver. Several police forces in the UK are hoping to combat this by stopping erratic drivers and subjecting them to roadside impairment tests which can spot the tell-tale signs of sleepiness as well as those brought on by drugs, alcohol or prescribed medicines.
Disclaimer: The information in the article is for general purpose information only and should not be constituted as legal advice. This article has been produced by a third party and Jardine Motors does not take any responsibility for the completeness, accuracy, or reliability with respect to the website or the information provided. Article last updated June 2018
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