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Young drivers are most likely to be drowsy commuters

Drowsy young commuters

Two fifths of young drivers say they’ve driven from work very tired

6 February 2019

Young drivers are the most likely to admit commuting despite feeling very tired, reveals new research* from the AA Charitable Trust

Two-fifths (42%) of those under-34 say they have driven their return commute when very tired compared to a quarter of all drivers. And a third of young drivers have driven to work very tired compared to a sixth of all drivers. 

  • Long motorway trip most common journey people drive despite feeling very tired
  • Estimated 25% fatal accidents caused by drowsy drivers
  • AA Trust Drowsy Driver campaign video highlights dangers  

This means, getting behind the wheel after an early start or late finish at work is the most common time drivers under-34 admit drowsy driving. But, across all drivers, long motorway journeys are the most common time they drive tired with a third (30%) saying they have done so. 

Fatigue-related crashes likely to be under-reported

The latest road casualty statistics show drowsy drivers contributed to 53 fatal and 351 serious crashes in 2017**. It is widely accepted the true figure for fatigue related crashes is much higher due to under-reporting. 

In fact, it is estimated that up to 25 per cent of fatal accidents are caused by drivers who have fallen asleep at the wheel. 

When have you driven tired?

The poll asked: Under which, if any of the following circumstances, would you say you have driven despite feeling very tired? 

  • A long motorway journey – 30% (all drivers),  40% (young drivers 18-34)
  • A late finish drive from work – 25% (all drivers),  42% (young drivers 18-34)
  • An early start drive to work – 16% (all drivers),  35% (young drivers 18-34)
  • A late-night return from an airport in the UK or abroad – 13% (all drivers),  16% (young drivers 18-34)
  • Driving home from a UK holiday – 12% (all drivers),  15% (young drivers 18-34)
National and regional differences

Drivers in Northern Ireland were the most likely to say a late finish (30%) or an early start (19%) at work meant they had driven when very tired. 

Overall, drivers in the North East were the most likely to say they had never driven when very tired (46%); while drivers in Northern Ireland were the least likely to agree with this (36%). 

Gig economy

Edmund King, Director of the AA Charitable Trust, said: “Young people make up a disproportionate part of the so-called gig economy. The pressures this type of work places on them may explain partly why they are trying to push on through tiredness on their commutes. 

“But, attempting to plough on through tiredness is very dangerous. The only long-term remedy for tiredness is sleep itself.

“Fatigue related crashes tend to be very serious because if the driver is asleep they do not steer away from a collision or brake. On motorways, our fastest roads, this tends to be catastrophic.” 

The pressures this type of work places on them may explain partly why they are trying to push on through tiredness on their commutes
Edmund King, Director of the AA Charitable Trust
Drowsy Driver campaign

Last year The AA Charitable Trust launched a Drowsy Driver campaign to remind drivers to be alert to fatigue, warning them that if they find themselves winding down the window or turning up the radio that these are a symptom of tiredness – and not an effective remedy. 

Drivers doing these things need to take it as a sign they are too tired and need to stop at the next safe place; have two cups of coffee (or equivalent caffeinated drink) and nap for around 15 minutes. 

The campaign features a thought-provoking advert, part-funded by the FIA Foundation and created by adam&eveDDB, designed to wake drivers up to the dangers of fatigue. 

More advice about tiredness and driving


*AA-Populus received 20,637 responses from AA members to its online poll between 16 and 22 October 2018.

**Reported Road Casualties Great Britain 2017

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