Millions of drivers fall asleep at the wheel, a shocking survey reveals

Deadly ignorance about tired driving is putting lives at risk as an estimated 2.3 million drivers [1] have dozed off behind the wheel, according to research released today by road safety charity Brake and Green Flag.

The vast majority of the 1,000 drivers interviewed (78%) put their trust in ineffective measures to combat tiredness such as opening a window or listening to the radio. Drivers were three times more likely to open the window when tired than take a nap while safely parked, which is recommended by the Government [2]. A shocking one in 14 (7%) admitted falling asleep while driving in the past year while a quarter (26%) said they had been a passenger with a tired driver.

National road safety charity Brake and Green Flag are deeply concerned that not enough drivers know the proven measures to avoid tired driving: a good night’s sleep before a journey; stopping at least every two hours; or stopping to take a nap if they feel tired.  Brake is calling for the Government to invest in high profile campaigns to combat this deadly ignorance.

Driver tiredness is a factor in 96 fatal crashes a year [3] and leads to countless more serious injuries. The real death toll is likely to be much higher as it is difficult to prove that a driver was tired or asleep at the time of a crash.  Brake is appealing for drivers to stop this preventable death toll and never drive while tired. An online information sheet about tired driving is available on the Brake website.

Case study (Mary Dunn is available for media interviews, contact Dianne Ferreira at Brake)
Mary Dunn knows all too well the devastating consequences of tired driving. Her husband Steve, 39, was driving a train involved in the 2001 ‘Selby Rail Disaster’.  Driver Gary Hart, who had not had any sleep the night before, fell asleep on the M62. His vehicle left the motorway and went down a bank on to the railway, causing two trains to derail.  Ten people died including Steve Dunn.  Mary says: “Too many people think that driving while tired is harmless without realising that they are in charge of a lethal weapon, capable of causing a major catastrophe like in Selby. Please think of Steve, and the others who were killed or injured that day, all because one man decided to drive while tired. Always get enough sleep before a journey and only ever drive if you feel fully awake and alert.”

Jools Townsend, head of education at Brake, said: “It is shocking that drivers are so ignorant about how to prevent tiredness on the road. It’s crucial that drivers planning long journeys or driving at unusual hours are aware of the dangers of driving tired and know how to avoid it by getting a good night’s sleep beforehand, taking regular breaks and pulling over if they feel tired.  We need to see high-profile advertising campaigns about the dangers of driving tired, to educate drivers who are, often unwittingly, putting themselves and others in terrible danger.”

Abi Clark, spokesperson for Green Flag, commented: “This research highlights that drivers need to be aware of the dangers they are putting themselves and others in when driving whilst tired. Drivers can’t just open a window or crank the music up to keep awake – they need to ensure they have a break every two hours when on a long journey and stop and take a nap if they feel tired.”

For interviews with Brake or Mary Dunn, call Dianne Ferreira at Brake on 01484 559909 or 07976 069159 (out of hours). For information about Green Flag, please call Abi Clark on 020 8313 5830.
Notes to Editors


[1] Based on the fact that there were 33.3million full car licence holders in Great Britain in 2005, statistics from Driver Licences: National Statistic online

[2] Government Think! Tiredness Kills campaign

[3] According to Road Casualties Great Britain 2005, Contributory Factors (DfT 2006), driver fatigue is a contributory factor in 3% of the 3,201 fatal road crashes that occurred in 2005.


Brake is an independent national road safety charity.  Brake exists to stop the 9 deaths and 82 serious injuries that happen on UK roads every day and to care for families bereaved and seriously injured in road crashes.  Brake produces educational road safety literature, runs community training programmes and runs events including Road Safety Week (5 – 11 November 2007).  Brake’s Fleet Safety Forum provides up-to-date fleet safety resources to fleet managers.  BrakeCare, Brake’s support division, cares for road crash victims through a helpline and other services.
Green Flag

    * Green Flag provides roadside rescue and recovery 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
    * Green Flag's incident management centre in Leeds manages around 1m breakdown incidents each year.
    * Green Flag has an average call out time of around 40-minutes based on research undertaken between February 06 and January 2007.
    * More than 85% of Green Flag customers get assistance within the hour (Internal monitoring between March 2006 - February 2007).
    * More than 80% of vehicles are repaired at the roadside (Internal monitoring between March 2006 - February 2007).
    * Customers have access to a national network of thousands of independent recovery agents in the UK and on mainland Europe.

Brake and Green Flag survey
The results in this press release are from a survey of 1,000 drivers and riders in a variety of locations. Every effort was made to ensure that a wide variety of people responded.

Survey results in full:

Q. Listed below are methods that drivers say they use to combat tiredness. Which of these methods do you, personally, use, and which do you think are proven to work?

71% said they ‘take regular breaks’ on long journeys, while 80% think this is proven to help

71% said they have a ‘good night’s sleep’ before a long journey, although only 65% think this is proven to help

41% said they ‘drink caffeine’ while taking a rest break, while 30% think this is proven to help

21% said they ‘have a short nap’ when taking a rest break, while 36% think this is proven to help

68% said they ‘open a window’, although just 48% think this is proven to help

50% said they ‘listen to a radio, CD or tape’ while driving, but only 23% think this is proven to help

39% said they ‘talk to a passenger’, although only 21 think this is proven to help

40% said they ‘go for a short walk’ when taking a rest break, while 40% think this is proven to help

22% said they ‘splash water on their face’ when taking a rest break, while 16% think this is proven to help

2% said they do something else to avoid tired driving

Less than 1% said they don’t do anything to try to combat tired driving

Q. Within the past 12 months, how often have you fallen asleep at the wheel?

7% said they have fallen asleep at the wheel once or twice

0.8% said they have fallen asleep at the wheel three or four times

0.4% said they have fallen asleep at the wheel 10 or more times

Q. Within the past 12 months, have you been a passenger in a vehicle with a driver who you think was tired?

26% said they thought they had been a passenger in a vehicle with a driver who was tired.

Healthcare Republic does not have an editorial influence or input in to these press releases. The views expressed within these documents are not endorsed by Healthcare Republic or Haymarket Medical Publications Limited.

Enquiries should be directed to any contacts listed within the press releases.


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