Road safety leaders have been left feeling restless, after 10% motorists in a new survey admitted they have fallen asleep while driving.
With more than 40 million licence holders registered in the UK, this works out to four million drivers who have potentially nodded off behind the wheel.
And while drivers motorists said they had only dropped off momentarily the shock news, in a survey from independent road safety charity IAM RoadSmart, will set alarm bells ringing among road welfare campaigners.
Even the briefest lapse in concentration when driving can have devastating consequences: at 70mph, a car travels more than 100 feet every second.
Some motorists went further, to paint a worrying picture, as one in ten of those surveyed admitted to actually briefly closing their eyes because they were so tired. And more than half of drivers questioned said they were very concerned about fatigue when doing long distances. That equates to more than 20 million motorists who are worried about momentary driving dozes.
“Fatigue behind the wheel is a very serious problem, perhaps more concerning than previously thought,” says Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart director of policy & research.
“It is shocking to think a potential four million drivers have closed their eyes behind the wheel because they were so tired, even if it was just for a short time. The potential carnage that could result from even one accident doesn’t bear thinking about.”
Further results from the research highlighted that millions of drivers have succumbed to tiredness when driving, with one in ten admitting they had hit a rumble strip, while a further four in ten had turned down the heating, rolled down the windows or turned up the radio in a bid to keep them wide awake on the wide open road.
On a positive note, a quarter said they had pulled over to have a rest and a coffee.
“Driving a long distance needs pre-planning to ensure there are plenty of available rest places and to make sure there’s enough time to complete the journey if delays are encountered,” added Neil Greig.
“Never drive for longer than two hours without a break and take particular care if driving when you would normally be asleep. This is even more important as the country re-opens after the pandemic and not all facilities are available yet.
“Drivers can then concentrate on staying alert behind the wheel rather than staving off tiredness by trying to reach their end destination without adequate rest breaks.”