Driver fatigue

Don’t use your airbag for a pillow!

Eight out of ten drivers said they drove when very tired

8 February 2017

Eight out of ten drivers (84%)* have driven even though they said they were very tired according to the latest AA-Populus Driver Poll.

  • Reasons range from late night driving to a hard day at work
  • But driving tired can be as dangerous as speeding

Motorway at dusk

The study of over 17,500 drivers found that a long, hard day at work was the most common reason for people driving while tired with two fifths (39%) doing so.

The study also found that:

  • Scottish drivers are the sleepiest with nearly nine out of ten drivers admitting to doing so (86%)
  • Nearly half of 18 to 34 year olds felt tired because they were driving late at night (43%)
  • Almost a third of men said they drove tired because they tried to cover too much distance in one day (31%)
  • Women were more likely to have driven tired while suffering from a lack of sleep the night before compared to men (29% for women, 25% for men)
Fatigue as a contributory factor

While driver fatigue is difficult to prove as the sole cause of an accident, some studies suggest that up to 20% of all accidents can be attributed to sleep.

In 2015 there were over 2,500 casualties where driver fatigue was indicated as the main contributory factor in a road traffic incident.

Should be 'sleeping like a log'

Commenting on the findings Edmund King, AA president said: “The dangers of speeding drivers are well known, but tired drivers can also pose serious risks to themselves and others.

The Beatles sang about a 'hard day's night' but today when many drivers should be at home 'sleeping like a log' they are risking falling asleep at the wheel
Edmund King, AA president


"The Beatles sang about a 'hard day's night' but today when many drivers should be at home 'sleeping like a log' they are risking falling asleep at the wheel.

“Drivers need to be alert at all times, and some will take meagre steps to try and stay awake such as winding down the window or turning up the radio.

“While this may have a short-term impact, a tired driver poses risks to others as their reaction times and observation skills are significantly diminished."

Stop for a coffee

If you find yourself feeling sleepy behind the wheel:

  • Stop and rest in a safe place until you feel comfortable to drive again.
  • A coffee or a short nap could make all the difference between getting home to be safely tucked-up in bed or using your airbag as a pillow.
  • AA members get 20% off at MOTO service stations.


* Populus received 17,575 responses from AA members to its online poll between 17th and 24th January 2017. Populus is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules


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