Driving When Tired - Microsleeps
Microsleeps - occurs when someone nods off to between two and 30 seconds without realising or remembering it, often recalled afterwards as 'head-nodding'.
This occurs when people are tired but are trying to stay awake, most common in monotonous situations. Nodding off for just a few seconds at the wheel can be fatal: if you are driving on a motorway at 70mph and nod off for six seconds you would travel nearly 200 metres, which could take you across three lanes of traffic and down an embankment onto another road or train track.
Look out for the Warning Signs
Research shows that normal sleep does not occur without warning. You should know when you are starting to feel sleepy. Warning signs include: increased difficulty concentrating; yawning; heavy eyelids; eyes starting to 'roll'; and neck muscles relaxing, making the head droop. If you experience these symptoms, you should find somewhere safe to rest as soon as possible, rather than trying to fight off tiredness. Winding down the window, listening to music and talking to a passenger do not help prevent sleep, although they may temporarily help you to stay alert until you find somewhere safe to stop.
If you are found to be driving tired, you may be charged with:
careless driving (when driving has fallen below the standard expected of a careful and competent driver);
dangerous driving (when driving has fallen far below the standard expected of a careful and competent driver).
If you cause a death while driving tired, you can be charged with death by dangerous driving, if there is sufficient evidence available. The maximum penalty for death by dangerous driving is 14 years in prison.
If you need to drive here is some safety advice
If you start to feel sleepy while driving:
If you drink caffeine, drink two cups of coffee or a high-caffeine drink, such as an energy drink.
Take a 10-15 minute rest or snooze, but no longer as you will go into a different type of sleep. Set an alarm clock to wake you. By the time you wake up the caffeine will have kicked in and you should be ready to continue your journey.
High energy drinks can help drivers to avoid falling asleep at the wheel, research has revealed. Researchers have warned that, while there should be no substitute for rest, drinks like Red Bull can assist motorists in avoiding the effects of fatigue.
The study by the sleep research centre at Loughborough University was carried out amid concern over the high proportion of road deaths.
Driver fatigue is thought to cause up to 10% of road accidents in the UK and be responsible for a quarter of fatalities in Scotland.
The new study, entitled Falling Asleep at the Wheel, is due to be unveiled at a conference in Warwickshire.
Researchers describe sleepiness as a silent killer and possibly a greater threat to life than alcohol.
The study found drivers were most at risk between the hours of 02:00 and 06:00 and between 14:00 and 16:00 when the body's "natural clock" tends to wind down.
The researchers warn that traditional strategies such as winding down the window and turning up the radio when feeling drowsy are pointless. They say drivers should plot journeys with possible fatigue in mind and, in the event of feeling tired, should get off the road and drink one or two cans of a "functional energy drink".
The study found that one can of an energy drink could counteract "moderate levels of sleepiness" and two cans will amost eliminate the problem entirely.
The researchers carried out experiments on volunteers using the drink Red Bull.
'Tiredness can kill'
But it was stressed that drinks did not provide a substitute for rest.
Research centre director, Professor Jim Horne, said: "Drivers should plan their journeys and get off the road if they feel at all tired."
"Once stopped in a safe place they should drink a can of energy drink and, if possible, take a short nap for more than 15 minutes."
"If a short nap is impossible then a break away from the road for the same amount of time is advised."
According to the report, half of all sleep-related crashes involve young men between the ages of 18 and 30 - but the greatest risk is run by sales reps, students and journalists.
The survey was focused on motorists but there is also anecdotal evidence that high energy drinks - along with strong coffee - are used by workers on night shifts.