Drivers falling asleep at the wheel

Around 17% of drivers have fallen asleep while driving

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According to a recent SmartWitness poll, around 17% of British drivers have fallen asleep while driving. Another 42% admitted becoming sleepy behind the wheel but kept on driving.

About 47% of participants admitted that they had been a danger to others or themselves because they were driving while very tired.

More men than women made themselves guilty of this offence. While about 24% of men have fallen asleep behind the wheel, only 10% of women allowed this to happen. A massive 89% said they had no other choice than to keep on driving despite being tired because they had to for their jobs or private matters.

A paltry 48% of British drivers stop to rest every time they feel tired.

About the same percentage said they combated fatigue while driving by opening the car window, while 37% enjoyed a cup of coffee. Nearly 24% found that chewing gum helped, while 16% turned up the radio and 12% set the interior temperature to cold.

Around 85% of those surveyed admitted to experiencing at least one bad night’s sleep every week – yet on close to 52% of days following such a night they would drive a vehicle. Commercial drivers are especially vulnerable to this risk with their increasingly long working hours and hectic schedules.

Experts estimate that driver fatigue plays a role in up to 20% of driver deaths.

Apart from that, the probability of death or serious injury in collisions related to tiredness is three times higher, because there’s no attempt to avoid the collision and the subsequent impact speed is therefore high.

Paul Singh, SmartWitness’ CEO, said that driver fatigue was one of the main killers on British roads, and that we had to do much more to increase awareness of this huge menace to road safety.

He added: “Increased pressure on delivery schedules due to the internet has put more pressure on drivers to carrying on driving when drowsy and at risk of nodding off. This is as dangerous to other road users as drink driving or talking on your mobile phone.”

Singh went on to say that it was crucial for employers to recognise this issue and use the latest technology to detect when their workers are too exhausted to drive, and also to alert the drivers themselves.

SmartWitness has developed a new device that picks up when the driver’s eyes wander from the road for more than 3 seconds, and then sends an audible alert to force them to wake up. When linked to a fleet management system it also alerts the fleet manager. The device also detects when the driver is using his or her smartphone while driving.

The company also runs a system for fleet owners where a call centre monitors drivers for tiredness. It uses various telematics indicators to detect issues such as tailgating and sudden braking and then informs the fleet manager in question, which can act immediately to prevent anything really bad from happening. These innovative new measures can help lower the number of claims made against a company’s fleet insurance.

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