Department for Transport figures reveal around one in five accidents on major roads in the UK are caused by tired drivers. But studies have shown that falling asleep at the wheel does not occur without warning. If you find yourself fighting off drowsiness by opening a window or turning up the radio, a warning light should start flashing in your head. It means you are tired and the only sensible thing to do is to stop and take a short break.
Take this advice from THINK!, the Department for Transport’s road safety education website:
Get an early night
Never consider a long drive if you’re tired. Be strict with yourself and get a good night's sleep the night before.
Avoid early morning driving
Research shows that you are most likely to fall asleep at the wheel between 2am and 6am. It is also common to feel sleepy in the early afternoon, between 2 and 4pm. Following a big lunch, take a 15-minute stroll to perk yourself up.
Take regular breaks on a long drive
Make sure you stop every two hours for at least 15 minutes. If you feel sleepy when you stop, have a 10-minute snooze, and set your phone’s alarm clock to wake you up. Taking a brisk stroll is also helpful.
The signs of sleepiness
There are some obvious signs - heavy eyelids, nodding head, waves of tiredness and not being able to concentrate. Stop somewhere safe and take a break. Never push yourself until you experience the above symptoms. Sleep follows more quickly than you think.
These are potentially fatal dozes that last between two and 30 seconds. They normally occur when you are tired but trying to stay awake. Don't let them sneak up on you when you are driving. If you find yourself yawning and struggling to keep your eyes open, then stop driving. As the adage goes, it is better to arrive late than never.
If you have to carry on driving
Drink two cups of coffee or a high-caffeine drink. Doze for 10 to 15 minutes to allow time for the caffeine to start working, then continue on your way.