Falling asleep at the wheel - tips and advice to stay alert

Falling asleep at the wheel - tips and advice to stay alert
Falling asleep at the wheel is obviously extremely dangerous to the driver, passengers and all other road users.

The majority of motorists want to be responsible drivers by making sure they avoid alcohol and don’t exceed the speed limit, but tiredness isn’t always given the same consideration.

Tips for staying awake behind the wheel

  1. Rest adequately before setting out on a long journey
  2. Include 15-minute breaks for every two hours of driving when planning a journey
  3. If you start to feel sleepy, find a safe place to stop as soon as possible
  4. Drink two cups of coffee or other high caffeine drinks and have a rest to allow time for the caffeine to kick in
  5. Avoid making long trips between midnight-6am and 2-4pm when natural alertness is low
  6. Share the driving if possible
  7. 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.

If you have a driving licence and develop a 'notifiable' medical condition (anything that could affect your ability to drive) or disability, or your condition/disability has worsened since getting your licence, you should tell the DVLA.

You can check if a health condition might affect your driving through the DVLA website. You should also ask your doctor if you need to inform the DVLA about your treatment.

It’s important to declare any medical conditions when applying for a car insurance policy and you should check with your provider if your health might impact your policy as well.

Find out more about health conditions and driving here.

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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.

Is falling asleep behind the wheel a criminal offence?

Any accident that occurs as a result of falling asleep at the wheel is usually classified as 'dangerous driving'.

Dangerous driving is described as driving which “falls far below the standard expected of a competent and careful driver and it would be obvious that driving in that way would be dangerous.”

It can include driving aggressively, overtaking in dangerous locations and racing other vehicles. It also covers "driving when unfit, including having an injury, being unable to see clearly, not taking prescribed drugs, or being sleepy."1

Dangerous driving offences will be dealt with by the Magistrates’ Court or Crown Court, depending on the seriousness.

If found guilty, you could be hit with an unlimited fine, a driving ban and up to 14 years in prison.

Find out more about driving offences and their punishments here, or learn how to spot and report dangerous driving.

 


1 https://www.cps.gov.uk/driving-offences

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^ 10% of all customers buying Car Insurance Plus with us from 1st January 2020 to 30th June 2020 paid less than £165. Based on comprehensive Car Insurance Plus, purchased direct, excluding any additional products and upgrades, with payment on an annual basis. Your premium will depend on your circumstances and the level of cover you choose.