One in eight drivers admit to falling asleep behind the wheel

Published 02 November 2018

One in eight drivers in the UK has fallen asleep behind the wheel, a new study suggests.

The AA Charitable Trust surveyed 20,561 motorists and found that one in 10 (11 per cent) regularly undertook a road journey when feeling tired, while 13 per cent admitted to falling asleep behind the wheel.

The study claims that men are three times as likely as women to have fallen asleep at the wheel (17 per cent compared to five per cent).

The latest Government road casualty statistics show drowsy drivers contributed to 53 fatal and 351 serious crashes in 2017. However, while the overall number of accidents linked to fatigue in the UK has fallen - from 2046 in 2014 to 1613 in 2017 - the AA claims that the true figure for fatigue related crashes is much higher due to under-reporting.

“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..."

“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," said Edmund King, AA Charitable Trust director.

“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."

Almost half of drivers polled said "a long/hard day at work" was the number one cause for feeling tired behind the wheel, while a third blamed the monotony of their road journey.

Dr Katharina Lederle, sleep expert at Somnia and author of Sleep Sense, said: “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.

“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."


Christopher M. Owen    on 5 November 2018

I was diagnosed with disruptive sleep apnoea many years ago and since then I use a CPAP machine every night which has helped me greatly. However, I remember a tip for drowsiness when driving and it is not possible to pull over and stop straightaway, and that is to chew gum. Personally I am not keen on the stuff but I always carry a packet in the car for long journeys. Whether it is the chewing action and the moving of the jaws, I don't know but it has been an enormous help on those occasions when I have been distance-driving.

C A Nicholson    on 5 November 2018

Years ago before I retired I was a HGV Class 1 night trunk driver, long distances on motorways can get very boring, Several of our drivers me included admitted not remembering sections of motorway we had driven down and must have been asleep. I liked the old roads better as it keeps you awake, on Gretna to Leeds i would use A65 instead of motorway as it was an interesting run. Should be a big flashing button on steering wheel that keeps coming on, if not pressed straight away it should cut off fuel to slow you down. May sound daft but having CB radio helped as keeping an eye and ear for your mates, mike hung from roof of cab so could just let go of it if need be unlike holding a phone.

Ubermik    on 5 November 2018

I did this once on the way to Portsmouth in the early hours of the morning and luckily when I woke up the care had veered off the road up a slightly inclined grassy bank and stalled when I woke up with a freezing cold cheek pressed up against the side window

Since then I have been far more wary and have often pulled over and taken a nap when I have found myself on the road but feeling tired, although this also got me fined twice at macdonalds outlets due to their 2 hour policy when I had stopped to get a large coffee to try and perk myself up then whilst in the process of drinking it nodded off on their carpark

Less of an inconvenience than waking up to find out you died in a collision with a lamppost obviously, but still quite crappy considering that both times the car parks were almost completely empty as it was the early hours of the morning

I liked classic Saab 900s best    on 5 November 2018

Some employers demand that their employees get up very early to drive a long way to arrive at a site or office early, spend a full day there, and then drive a long way back. No B&B, no breakfast lunch or dinner on expenses. Can be as much as an 18 hour day inc. 8 hours driving. Longer if stopping for a breakfast &/or dinner (paid out of ones own pocket). Ours even had a Driver Safety Procedure. It was kept secret from the employees of course, presumably the managers created it solely in the misguided hope that it would act as a beano annual down the back of their pants.

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