Wake up call for tired drivers

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Wake up call for tired drivers

17th August 2010

Survey results recently published by road safety charity Brake reveal almost one in ten road-users admit to driving whilst tired at least once a week.

Joanna Bailey, a spokesperson for Brake and an expert in road collision injuries said: "It is alarming how complacent motorists are about tiredness whilst driving. It only takes a couple of seconds of sleep to cause a fatal crash, yet millions of drivers are regularly risking their lives as well as the lives of others by getting behind the wheel when they know they're tired."

The results saw a huge jump in figures from an identical survey published six years ago when only 46 per cent of drivers admitted to embarking on road journeys with too little sleep.

"The increase in drivers admitting to driving whilst tired is a worrying trend," said Joanna, a partner with Fentons Solicitors LLP. "Tiredness and driving are a lethal combination - not only is there the obvious risk of falling asleep at the wheel, but when we are tired our reactions and road awareness are very far from what they would normally be."

An estimated one in five fatal crashes on trunk roads are caused by tired drivers. These tend to be high-speed crashes with no emergency braking resulting in the risk of death or serious injury being significantly increased. Despite this most road-users are unaware of the effectiveness of certain measures over others in regard to combating tiredness behind the wheel. The Government advises rests every two hours on long journeys, yet Brake's survey found that 73 per cent fail to follow this advice by driving for three hours or more at a time.

"If drivers feel tired behind the wheel, they should pull over somewhere safe as soon as possible, drink caffeine, and take a short 10-15 minute power nap," said Joanna. "By the time you wake up any caffeine will have entered your bloodstream and you may feel alert enough to continue your journey. If you still feel tired, or you still have a long way to go, you should try to find somewhere to get a good night's sleep."

Brake advises against other renowned but ultimately unproven methods of staying awake. Of the 800 road-users surveyed a huge proportion are risking lives by continuing with their journeys despite feeling tired and using measures to stay awake such as opening the window, listening to loud music and splashing water on their faces or going for short walks during rest breaks.

"These are all temporary methods," said Joanna. "We can all recognise the signs of tiredness, we know what the warning signs are. When we're driving it is crucial we listen to these signs without delay. Thinking that we can fight off sleep and taking steps such as raising the volume of our car stereos, could ultimately kill you, your passengers as well as other road-users."

Brake advises drivers get plenty of sleep before their journeys, plan their journeys to include time for adequate rest breaks and to not set out if you are already feeling tired. Rest breaks are recommended at least every two hours of driving with a minimum rest period of fifteen minutes.

"Sleep ensues faster than you think," said Joanna. "By trying to fight off tiredness with ineffective measures drivers are exposing themselves to the risk of 'microsleeps' - when a person nods off for between two and thirty seconds without remembering anything. For motorists, this can obviously be fatal. At 70mph a vehicle travels 200m in six seconds.

"Whilst drivers may think stopping for a break could increase their journey times, it is simply not worth the risk to themselves or others. It is better to get there late than to not arrive at all. Sleep is the only long-term cure to tiredness."

How can Fentons Solicitors help?
Fentons has a specialist department experienced in handling claims for victims of road traffic collisions.

If you think that you have a case or require further information contact Fentons on 0800 0191 297 or fill in the online claims questionnaire.

Source - Brake