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The IAM believes that up to 20% of motorway crashes are fatigue related, although it is very hard to gather firm evidence: unlike drink driving, or driving under the influence of drugs or whilst using a mobile phone, fatigue is less detectable and survivors are unlikely to admit to driving whilst tired.

Because it is natural to get tired, there is a temptation to ignore what our body is telling us while we are at the wheel. Despite the yawns and the eyelids getting heavy, drivers are often intent on getting to their destination as soon as possible. The need to "crack on" could mean that drivers don't take a proper break every two hours or so. Instead they try turning up the radio or opening the window so they can keep going - both of which will induce even more fatigue through increased noise and are at best extremely short-term remedies.

A survey by the Department for Transport (DfT) said that motorists who ignore that ‘innocent yawn’ are putting themselves and other road users at risk if they press on regardless.

As many as one in five of all crashes on major roads is caused by tired drivers and it may be even more - because those drivers who survive a crash (or a near miss) are unlikely to admit that they were too tired to drive when it happened.

We all want to finish our journeys as quickly as possible but being tired at the wheel is a proven killer that we cannot ignore. Those who drive for a living are particularly at risk.

Falling asleep without early warning signs while you're driving is very rare - yet it is surprising how many people ignore the signs of fatigue beforehand.

Bristol Advanced Motorists suggests:

  • Don't start a long trip if you're already tired. Remember that a working day away from the usual office might involve extra travelling time which could leave you exhausted by the time you are heading for home.
  • Plan your journey to include at least a 15 minute break every two hours or so, even if you feel you don't need it. You will be refreshed. Use the break away from the car to catch up with phone messages.
  • If you feel drowsy, don't press on regardless. Find a safe place to stop (but not the hard shoulder). If you have a nap, take the keys out the ignition and lock the car doors.
  • As an emergency measure drink two cups of coffee or one of the high-caffeine drinks and have a rest for 10-15 minutes to allow time for the caffeine to kick in.

Lastly, don't rely on what some drivers admitted was their solution - slapping themselves in the face! Other ineffective solutions reported to the IAM include turning up the radio, singing, shaking the head vigorously and opening all the windows.

The fact of the matter is simple; if you continue to drive whilst tired; someone is probably going to die.

For more information on becoming an Advanced Driver, telephone 07071 201173 or email

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