Tiredness is one of the greatest dangers drivers face out on the road. In the UK, driver tiredness accounts for 20 per cent of all accidents, with up to 300 people dying every year because of a driver falling asleep at the wheel. These types of accidents are particularly lethal as the sleeping driver tends not to brake before impact. Perhaps most alarming of all is how common it is for drivers to fall asleep at the wheel – a recent survey found that 7% of drivers had dozed off while driving in the past year.
Around 40 per cent of sleep-related incidents involve a commercial vehicle, and it’s therefore essential your drivers are made aware of the dangers, the warning signs and the preventative measures they should take to avoid becoming tired out 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. Ignoring the signs of tiredness can push a driver into a ‘microsleep’, lasting between 2 and 30 seconds, which often leads to an accident. A driver nodding off for three seconds when travelling at 70mph will cover almost 100 metres in that time. Here are the major warning signs of tiredness – take action if you experience any of the following: - Yawning - Difficulty concentrating - Heavy eyelids - Eyes beginning to roll - Head beginning to droop
What to do
As a fleet manager, make sure you inform your drivers that if they start feeling tired on the road they should not try to fight it off. Advise them to take a break as soon as possible in a safe place like 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 to take a short nap. However, caffeine is only a temporary measure and its effects won’t last much longer than an hour. If the driver is still tired after their break, they should not drive on. It’s a common misconception that tiredness can be fought by turning up the radio, by opening the window, or by talking to a passenger. These measures are actually ineffective, and you should not advise your drivers to use them.