Driving Home This Weekend? Make Sure You Stay Awake

Three hundred people a year are killed because a driver has fallen asleep at the wheel. The worst of it is that it is not always the sleeping driver who gets killed – sometimes its an innocent and awake driver, instead.

Halfords Autocentres (formerly Nationwide Autocentres, now owned by Halfords) has issued a warning to drivers to take care if driving long distances this weekend, which marks the end of the half-term holiday in most parts of the UK. Drivers should be aware that one in five of all crashes are caused by tired drivers.

Halfords’ survey of 3,000 drivers found that 37% of those questioned admitted to having narrowly avoided an accident while feeling sleepy at the wheel, while 3.2% admitted that they had veered off the road due to tiredness and 1.7% had actually had a collision due to tiredness. Only 27% of drivers claimed never to have been affected by tiredness while at the wheel.

The Halfords survey comes just after the publication of a study by scientists from Utrecht University in the Netherlands. They found that driving while tired was as dangerous as driving after drinking a moderate amount. The study found that driving while tired for three hours produced the same level of errors as driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 – the UK limit.

What To Do When Tiredness Strikes

The best approach to driving when tired is not to do it – avoid driving between midnight and 6am where possible, as this is the human body’s natural sleepy time. Try to ensure you get a good night’s sleep before a long journey and plan 15 minute breaks every two hours during.

If tiredness does begin to creep over you while you are driving, turning the radio up or opening the window are unlikely to help for more than a few minutes. The only real solution to help get you home safely is to stop, have one or two cups of coffee and then have a snooze for 15 minutes (a ‘power nap’). Try not to sleep for longer than this as your body will start to enter deep sleep and you will feel even worse when you wake up.

Speaking personally, I have always found that having a window open a crack from the start of a long journey helps prevent the onset of tiredness – but this may not work for everyone.

Whatever you do, don’t just carry on regardless. It’s better to arrive late than not at all…

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