How much sleep did you get last night? Was it enough?

With a demanding work schedule and busy family life, many of us are not getting enough rest. It’s not healthy and if you’re driving a commercial vehicle, it’s also extremely dangerous. From Monday 5 March, DVSA traffic examiners will start issuing on-the-spot fines for drivers’ hours offences committed in the previous 28 days.

Did you know –

  • It’s estimated around one fifth of all road accidents are sleep-related
  • and of those incidents, 40% involve commercial vehicles
  • Men under 30 have the highest risk of falling asleep at the wheel
  • Peak times for accidents are in the early hours and after lunch

With longer nights at this time of year, drivers should be aware that driving in the dark and in poor weather conditions is tiring and you may need to take more and longer breaks.

And, if you develop any form of medical condition which seriously affects your sleeping patterns, such as sleep apnoea (read our blog on sleep apnoea here) or cataplexy then you must inform the DVLA. If you don’t, you risk a fine of up to £1,000 and if involved in an accident, a criminal prosecution.

Although the hours of staff driving commercial vehicles under 3.5t aren’t regulated, the legislation that governs drivers of larger vehicles can provide useful guidance about what’s safe and what isn’t – see the Government’s regulations for more details

If a driver is prosecuted for careless or dangerous driving, being tired or falling asleep can be considered an aggravating factor which may increase the seriousness of an offence and the potential penalty. The government has produced some useful guidelines on fatigue for all drivers, as part of its THINK! Campaign:

  • Plan your journey to include a 15-minute break every two hours
  • Don’t start a long trip if you’re already tired
  • Remember the risks if you have to get up unusually early to start a long drive
  • Try to avoid long trips between midnight and 6am when you’re likely to feel sleepy anyway.

If you start to feel sleepy, find a safe place to stop – not the hard shoulder of a motorway. Drink two cups of coffee or a high-caffeine drink and have a rest for 10 to 15 minutes to allow time for the caffeine to kick in.

  • Getting good quality sleep is also important to ensure you’re not tired during the day
  • Limit caffeine intake in the hours before bedtime
  • Make sure the bedroom is properly ventilated
  • Go to bed earlier before an early start
  • Using devices such as tablets and mobile phones before sleeping can disrupt deep sleep.

Source – FTA