Falling asleep at the wheel

Falling asleep at the wheel is obviously extremely dangerous, to the driver themselves, their passengers and all other road users. The majority of motorists want to be responsible, conscientious drivers, making sure they avoid alcohol when driving and don’t exceed speed limits. But tiredness isn’t always given the same consideration.

Top tips for staying awake

The RAC recommends the following advice:

  • Rest adequately before setting out on a long journey
  • Include 15-minute breaks for every two hours of driving when planning a journey
  • If you start to feel sleepy, find a safe place to stop as soon as possible
  • Drink two cups of coffee or other high caffeine drinks and have a rest to allow time for the caffeine to kick in
  • Have a good night's sleep before setting out on a long journey
  • Avoid making long trips between midnight-6am and 2-4pm when natural alertness is low
  • Share the driving if possible
  • Avoid eating a big meal before driving – remember this when stopping at a service station for a bite to eat!

Sleep disorders and driving

There are lots of different types of sleep disorders but there is one in particular that is important to think about if you’re a driver. It’s called obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome (OSAS) and symptoms including excessive daytime sleepiness. If treated, sufferers are no more likely to have a road accident than anyone else. However, if left untreated, they’re six times more likely to have an accident than other drivers.

But how could you possibly not realise that you have the condition? In the UK, it’s believed that up to 1.4 million drivers have not been diagnosed. That means as many as one in 20 drivers on roads today may be unknowingly risking accidents, and potentially their lives, each time they get behind the wheel.

Symptoms of OSAS include:

  • Loud snoring
  • Noisy and laboured breathing
  • Repeated short periods where breathing is interrupted by gasping or snorting
  • Not feeling refreshed after waking up
  • Feeling very sleepy during the day
  • Poor memory and concentration
  • Headaches, particularly in the morning
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Depression
  • Lack of interest in sex (loss of libido).

If you or a family member thinks there may be more to your tiredness than just the toils of everyday life, see a medical professional to rule out or highlight and treat anything that may be making you less safe behind the wheel.

Find further information here on car insurance or speak to one of our RAC advisers on 0330 159 1019* to get a quote.

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