A survey by the road safety charity Brake has found that 74% of drivers admitted to getting behind the wheel when feeling sleepy in the past 12 months, a big rise on the 46% figure of six years ago.
In 2008 fatigue was a listed as a contributory factor in 64 fatal road accidents. Out of a total number of 2538 deaths that year, this is bad enough. But the situation could be even worse than it seems at first glance.
Driver error or reaction – which includes loss of control, swerving, failing to look properly – was a factor in 1,389 fatal incidents. All of these things could have been, at least partially, the result of a sleep deficit. There must be many of us who have wearily got behind the wheel of our car in the morning after a late evening out with friends or a sleepless night because of the baby crying, feeling not as alert as we could be.
Being tired can cause a loss of concentration long before people actually fall asleep and the chances are fatigue is a bigger issue than most of us recognise.
The Government advises drivers on long journeys to take breaks every two hours, yet the Brake survey found that 73% of those polled drove for three hours or more without stopping.
Too often the Government is criticised for interfering in the lives of citizens, but on this issue perhaps its warnings should be heeded.