Tiredness can be one of the greatest dangers drivers face while out on the road. It accounts for 20 per cent of all accidents in the UK, with up to 300 people dying every year because of a driver falling asleep at the wheel. These accidents are particularly lethal, as the sleeping driver tends not to brake before impact. However, most alarmingly is how common it is for drivers to fall asleep at the wheel – a recent survey found that 7 per cent of drivers had dozed off while driving in the past year.
Around 40 per cent of sleep-related incidents involve a commercial vehicle; therefore, your drivers must be made aware of the dangers, the warning signs and the preventative measures they should take to avoid becoming tired out while on the road.
Remember, killing someone while tired at the wheel could lead to a charge of death by dangerous driving, which carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.
The warning signs
Most people don’t fall asleep without warning, and drivers who fall asleep at the wheel have usually tried to keep themselves awake to no avail. However, ignoring the signs of tiredness can push a driver into a ‘microsleep’, lasting between 2 and 30 seconds, which often leads to an accident. For example, a driver nodding off for three seconds while travelling at 70mph will cover almost 100 metres.
Here are the major warning signs of tiredness. Take action if you experience any of the following:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Heavy eyelids
- Eyes beginning to roll
- Head beginning to droop
What to do
As a fleet operator, make sure you inform your drivers that they should not try to fight it if they start feeling tired on the road. Advise them to take a break as soon as possible in a safe place such as a service station, and never on the hard shoulder.
Once the driver has found a safe place to stop, encourage them to drink a high caffeine drink and take a short nap. However, caffeine is only a temporary measure, and its effects won’t last much longer than an hour. Therefore, if the driver is still tired after their break, they shouldn’t continue their journey.
It’s a common misconception that tiredness can be fought by turning up the radio, opening the window or talking to a passenger. Unfortunately, these measures are ineffective, and you shouldn’t advise your drivers to try them.