Don't Drive or Ride Tired

Blog post posted on 07/03/22 |

Get a good night for a good journey

Did you realise that driving while tired can be just as dangerous as doing so while under the influence? The road signs that read, “Tiredness can kill, take a break” – and there for good reason.

There are many reasons why you may not have got a good night’s sleep but if travelling, it's crucial to make sure you don't ride or drive tired and to take a break at least every two hours. Richard Gladman, IAM RoadSmart’s head of driving and riding standards, shares some tips on how to beat driver and rider fatigue.

Driving or riding when tired can impact many things include concentration, ability to stay alert and deal with hazards, look ahead and anticipate dangers, appreciation of speed and reaction times. Less obvious side effects of sleep deprivation are irritability, nausea, and being distracted.

  • Speeding, using a mobile phone, drink and drug driving, not wearing a seatbelt and careless driving are the fatal five causes of crashes responsible for a large proportion of incidents. Fatigue is a serious contributor to careless driving.
  • Extreme tiredness can also lead to micro-sleeps. These are short episodes of drowsiness or sleep that could last a fraction of a second or up to 30 seconds. Any vehicle travelling at 70 mph will travel 31 meters per second, giving plenty of time to cause a serious crash during a micro-sleep.
  • The effects of losing one or two hours of sleep a night on a regular basis can lead to chronic sleepiness over time. So, ensure you are well rested and feeling fit and healthy before you set off. To reverse the effects, sleep deficit needs to be replenished. One good night's sleep will often not cure it if you are trying to make up a deficit of 10 hours for example, you need to rebalance your body.  
  • Make sure you take regular rest breaks to split up the journey especially when travelling on a long, boring stretch of a motorway. The simple rule is don’t drive drowsy – stop at least every 100 miles or two hours of driving BEFORE fatigue or drowsiness sets in. Make sure the break is at least 15 minutes, getting out of the car and walking around will help.
  • If necessary, plan an overnight stop. If you feel too fatigued to carry on, then book yourself into a hotel at the next service station and sleep it off. Wake up fresh with a good breakfast and carry on your journey. It’s good to note that a caffeine high may be a quick fix, but it is not a long-term solution and certainly no substitute for proper sleep.
  • You’re bound to be tired after a full day at work, so avoid setting out on a long journey after you have finished for the day. It’s best to start your journey earlier on, and when you’re more alert.
  • If possible, avoid travelling between the two peak times for sleepiness. These are between 3am and 5am and also between 2pm and 4pm.
  • If you have taken prescribed medication, then seek advice from your GP as to whether you should be driving or riding or not. If bought over the counter, then read the instructions on the pack or speak to a pharmacist.

Richard says: “Even the fittest of us need regular sleep to perform at our highest levels. Riding and driving requires your full concentration and if you are tired, your ability to concentrate is reduced. Our internal body clock (circadian rhythm) is usually set to deal with our normal lifestyle. Extra care needs to be taken when travelling during a time we would normally be at rest. Stop, rehydrate and rest if you need to.”   

Tiredness can also trigger other problems and can also increase erratic driving behaviours due to low tolerance levels. These apply to both you and others on the road and could include:

  • The behaviour of other drivers
  • Increased workload/the demands of the job
  • Poor work organisation and job/role uncertainty
  • Poor work/life balance
  • Domestic/personal issues.

Countermeasures for combatting Tiredness

The most effective countermeasures are:

  • Obtaining adequate sleep (a good night’s sleep) before a journey
  • Taking a nap before a journey
  • Avoiding driving in the early morning or late evening
  • Pulling over to a roadside hotel to sleep
  • Having a 15 - 20-minute power nap then consuming a caffeinated drink and
  • Sharing the drive, splitting the journey in half (provided the new driver is alert).
  • Avoid travelling after a large meal.

Drivers who feel they could benefit from increased driving confidence are able to book a range of courses through IAM RoadSmart. For more information visit our website or email our team

Auto Express recently put this to the test - read more here - Driving when tired: how dangerous is it? | Auto Express