One in eight (13%) UK drivers admit to falling asleep at the wheel, according to new research by the AA Charitable Trust.
Nearly two fifths say they have been so tired they’ve been scared they will fall asleep while driving.
The latest road casualty statistics show drowsy drivers contributed to 53 fatal and 351 serious crashes in 2017. The true figure is likely to be much higher — the AA estimates that 25% of fatal accidents are caused by drivers asleep at the wheel.
The AA Charitable Trust is calling on drivers to be alert to fatigue. It says that winding down the window or turning up the radio can be symptoms of tiredness and not an effective remedy. Tired drivers should stop as soon as they can safely, have two cups of coffee (or equivalent) and nap for 15 minutes.
Research shows 17% of visitors say they felt tired when arriving at a motorway service station, but this fell to 11% on exit.
Edmund King, AA Charitable Trust director, said: “Drowsiness is one of the most under-estimated risks on the roads. Tiredness is a fact of life at some point for most of us and it is crucial we know how to manage it in relation to driving.
“Crashes involving a drowsy driver tend to be catastrophic. If a driver has fallen asleep at the wheel they do not brake before an impact and make no attempt to steer away from a collision.
“A driver who nods off for just three or four seconds on a motorway would have covered the length of a football pitch with closed eyes. A 30 second nap while travelling at 60mph covers half a mile; a terrifying thought.
Dr Katharina Lederle, sleep expert at Somnia and author of Sleep Sense, said: “The simple truth is the only long-term cure for sleepiness is sleep and drivers are not able to fight it off by opening the window or turning up the radio.
“Drinking caffeine and having a short nap before the caffeine effect kicks in (about 20 minutes) is a short-term solution. It can help drivers increase their alertness sufficiently to carry on driving for another hour or two. But this is no substitute for proper sleep.
“There are certain times of day when the risk of driver fatigue is highest, specifically between 2am and 6am and 2pm and 4pm, when the internal body clock is promoting sleepiness.”