Fatigue is a significant factor in a fifth of all road collisions.

It also has a significant impact on your chances of surviving any crash.

With the bank holiday weekend approaching and families often travelling long distances after a working week, the road can be a perilous place to be.

Be prepared

Drivers need to be adequately rested before setting off on long journeys.

This is the advice from breakdown and road safety organisation GEM Motoring Assist.

Being tired when you’re driving raises the risk of a collision.

When it involves travelling hundreds of miles, the risks naturally increase proportionately.

Seeing the signs

Fatigue makes a driver less aware of what’s happening around them.

Concentration levels are reduced, while reaction times increase significantly, compromising all those in the vehicle and others on the road around that vehicle.

This is why, according to RoSPA, fatigue is believed to be a factor in up to 20% of all road collisions and up to 25% of fatal and serious crashes.

Scary realities

“A fatigue-related crash is around 50% more likely to result in death or serious injury, because a driver who has fallen asleep at the wheel will be unable to reduce speed or change direction to avoid a collision,” state GEM road safety adviser James Luckhurst.

“The consequences can be devastating.”

Falling asleep at the wheel is easily avoided, but as James Luckhurst continues, it’s vital you heed the many warning signs your body will give you before you actually nod off.

“No one simply falls asleep without passing through various stages of tiredness and distraction – all of them are easy to recognise,” he said.

“You will experience difficulty focusing on the driving task, you may fidget, yawn constantly and rub your eyes frequently. When more serious levels of fatigue set in, you may find your thoughts constantly wandering away from driving, you may drift to the left or right, you may be slowing down without realising and you’ll suddenly find you cannot recall anything that happened in the past few minutes.

“At this stage your driving performance is seriously impaired, and it’s vital that you stop somewhere safe as soon as possible. A power nap and/or a caffeine-based drink can provide a short-term fix, but they should never be used as an acceptable substitute for proper rest.

“If you’re that tired, you must stop and rest properly.”

Simple tips

GEM offers five simple tips for drivers to avoid and reduce the risk of a fatigue-related collision:

  • Get a good night’s sleep before setting out on a long journey.
  • Don’t press on into the night. Avoid driving at times when you would usually be asleep.
  • Avoid heavy meals on journeys, especially at lunchtime, as these can increase sleepiness in the afternoon.
  • On long journeys, take a break of at least 15 minutes after every two hours or 100 miles. Get out of the car, do some exercise, stretch or walk. If necessary, have a caffeine drink or two to boost your alertness.
  • You’ll know when fatigue is affecting you. It doesn’t just take you by surprise. So resist the urge to keep going, and take a proper break.