Driving when you're tired can kill

Fatigue causes hundreds of accidents each year.

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  • Higher risk of collisions

  • Slower reaction times

  • Reduced alertness

  • Serious injuries and death

Tiredness can be extremely dangerous

Everyone knows you shouldn’t drive feeling tired, but too many people in Scotland still put lives at risk every year.

Collisions are 50% more likely to end up in death or serious injury. Why? When you’re asleep, you don’t brake or try to avoid the collision.

This leads to more severe high-impact collisions.

What you need to know

  • Driver fatigue causes around 50 fatal and serious injuries in Scotland every year
  • It impairs performance, increases reaction times and reduces attention
  • Very little sleep can affect your driving in the same way as having a drink
  • Drinking coffee or having a walk only acts as a short-term measure
  • To avoid putting lives at risk, you should safely pull over and have a rest

What causes tiredness?

A simple lack of sleep is usually the main problem, but there are other reasons you can become sleepy while driving.

  • Unusual sleep patterns from shift working
  • Natural body clock dips at certain times, for example:
    • early afternoon following on from lunch (2pm-4pm)
    • early morning for overnight workers (2am-6am)
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Medicines that cause drowsiness
  • Driving a long distance after a full day’s work

The dangers of driver fatigue

  • There’s a much higher chance of a high-impact collision
  • This can lead to serious injuries – for you and other road users
  • Driving tired causes slower reaction times
  • It also reduces concentration and alertness

Who’s most at risk?

Things like time constraints and bad weather mean too many people still drive when they’re tired, but some people are at a higher risk of falling asleep when driving. For example, if you:

  • Drive for work daily
  • Drive for long periods on dual carriageways and motorways
  • Regularly do shift work
  • Suffer from any sleep-related disorders

Tips to avoid driving tired

If you already feel tired, then don’t start your journey. When you do set off, here are a few simple things to keep in mind:

  • Plan rest breaks throughout your journey (15-20 minutes every two hours)
  • Always respond to the signs of being tired
  • Don’t just put down the window or turn up your music – these methods only work for a short time
  • Don’t rely on vehicle technology to keep you awake – it doesn’t work
  • Just stop in a safe place, put your seat back, and have a nap

Danger signs

  • Yawning

  • Heavy eyelids

  • Head nodding (‘microsleep’)

  • Eyes rolling

  • Unable to concentrate

Medical conditions

If you have a sleep-related condition that could affect your driving, you need to tell the DVLA. If you don’t, it could lead to a large fine – and even prosecution if you’re in a collision.

Remember, some medicines for coughs, flu and hayfever can cause drowsiness too.

Other disorders can also make you drowsy. These include:

  • Sleep disorders
  • Sleep apnoea
  • Insomnia
  • Narcolepsy
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