29 July 2015

Drivers fail to take breaks and prioritise safety when on the road

Driver error accounts for more than two-thirds of vehicle crashes in the UK, which could be because many fail to prioritise their wellbeing and alertness when they are behind the wheel by failing to take regular breaks on long journeys.

Almost two-thirds of drivers (65%) on long journeys do not to stop to take rest breaks on the motorway because they don’t feel they have any need to, according to a survey by the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM).

79% of 1,753 drivers surveyed will only choose to stop and take a rest if a motorway service area is located in a convenient place on their journey.

The poll asked to what extent keeping hydrated and taking a break between long journeys was important to drivers and found many respondents did not consider taking a rest break essential unless they had a pressing reason.

The survey was published in the wake of recent research that suggested company car and van drivers that fail to keep themselves sufficiently hydrated make as many mistakes on the road as drink or drug-drivers.

The study of 11 male drivers over two days revealed that when the men were dehydrated the number of ‘driving incidents’ during the two-hour simulator ‘drive’ more than doubled to 101 – a similar number to what might be expected of someone driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

The ‘driving incidents’ recorded included lane drifting, late braking and touching or crossing the rumble strip or lane line. As a result, one of the conclusions in the Loughborough University study was that ‘driver education programmes should also encourage appropriate hydration practices’.

Under typical circumstances the body loses and needs to replace approximately two to three litres of water daily.

The IAM said its survey findings suggested that many drivers failed to prioritise their wellbeing and alertness when they were behind the wheel because they didn’t take regular breaks on long journeys.

Sarah Sillars, IAM’s chief executive officer, said: ‘Where drivers avoid taking rest breaks at a motorway service station, simply because they want to reach a destination quicker, raises the risk of making several mistakes and being involved in an incident.

‘Drivers must be encouraged to take regular breaks every two hours. Take a bottle of water with you before embarking on a long journey, keep hydrated throughout and allow for some much-needed rest.’

Top tips to stay safe

  • 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 are 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.
  • Remember, the only real cure for sleepiness is proper sleep. A caffeine drink or a nap is a short-term solution that will only allow you to keep driving for a short time.

Source: Department for Transport’s Think! campaign.