Drivers who become drowsy or fall asleep at the wheel cause thousands of crashes each year. This is one of the most common causes of serious road crashes and casualties. Accidents are more likely to result in death or serious injury as they tend to happen on high-speed roads and a sleeping driver cannot brake or swerve to avoid or reduce the impact.
Tiredness reduces a driver’s ability to recognise hazards, slows their reaction times and impairs their judgement. This combination of factors can be lethal, as a driver will only spot a hazard at the last minute (if at all) and may not have time to brake before the collision.
Crashes caused by tired drivers are most likely to happen:
- on long journeys on monotonous roads, such as motorways;
- after having less sleep than normal; or
- if taking medicines that cause drowsiness.
One of the most important things employers must do is ensure that their drivers are not at risk of falling asleep at the wheel.
Plan routes to use the highest quality roads, such as motorways and dual carriageways where possible.
Take account of road type (for example, accident rates are lowest on motorways and dual carriageways), hazards (road works, accident ‘hot spots’), congestion (time journeys to avoid peak traffic hours) and higher-risk features such as schools or busy shopping centres.
Share journeys and driving whenever possible to minimise the number of journeys and mileage costs.
Include time for rest breaks (and if necessary, overnight stops) and plan where to stop for regular rest.
Understand the early signs of fatigue and what to do if they begin to feel tired during a journey.
Make sure that routes and Satnavs are regularly updated.
Finally and crucially, understand how to stay safe in very poor weather and have in the vehicle emergency contact numbers.