Tired sleepy woman yawning during driving car

How to spot the signs that you’re too tired to drive

Driving while tired is a major cause of accidents, which is why it’s important to spot the signs of fatigue when going on long journeys. This article explains some symptoms of tiredness while driving, and what precautions you can take to ensure your long drive goes smoothly.

Fatigue can be dangerous for any driver who spends long hours on the road. If you have a disability, this is something to be even more aware of.

Some drivers with disabilities might experience chronic pain, limited mobility, or other health conditions that can lead to more intense feelings of fatigue.

Tiredness affects a driver’s reaction times and concentration levels, and with that comes a greater risk of accidents. So it’s crucial to stay aware of your energy levels, take regular breaks and, where needed, let another driver take over.  

Fatigue can be caused by many things – from simple things such as a lack of sleep or driving for too long, to more specific factors such as jetlag, ill health and even certain medications.

How long is it safe to drive for in a day?  

The Highway Code states that driving when you’re tired greatly increases your risk of collision. It does not give a set number of hours per day that you’re allowed to drive, but it does explicitly say that you should not begin a journey if you’re tired.

It also recommends that you avoid taking long journeys between midnight and 6am, because this is when your natural alertness is at a minimum.

No matter how long you plan on driving for, you must be on the lookout for symptoms of tiredness. It can help to plan regular times to check in with yourself.

Planning a long journey? Sarah, a Motability Scheme customer, shared her top tips for driving long distances – read her advice here.

Signs of tiredness while driving

Some common symptoms of driver fatigue include:

  • Yawning
  • Tired and/or dry eyes
  • Daydreaming and/or an inability to concentrate
  • Difficulty focusing your vision on the road
  • Slow blinks and/or blinking more than usual
  • Involuntary head nods
  • Bodily aches and pains
  • A decline in your driving style, such as slower reaction times, unnecessary changes in speed or drifting out of your lane

If you experience any of these symptoms while driving, make sure you find a safe place to stop as soon as possible.

Can medical conditions affect tiredness while driving?  

Some health conditions, such as diabetes or sleep apnoea, can make you more vulnerable to fatigue while driving. If you are unsure whether your health condition could affect your driving, you should speak to your doctor. You can also check on the government’s website to find out if a health condition affects your driving.

If you develop a medical condition or disability that could impact your ability to drive, you must tell the DVLA – or else you could be fined up to £1000.

The Motability Scheme

If you receive a qualifying mobility allowance, you could exchange it to lease a brand-new vehicle on the Motability Scheme. Insurance, breakdown cover and maintenance are already included in the price you pay, giving you the freedom of worry-free motoring.

Learn how the Scheme works

Preparing for a long drive

If you’re planning a long drive, there are a few things you can do to make the journey easier on yourself – and help you avoid driver fatigue:

  • Plan your journey to include regular rest breaks, and don’t try to drive more than 8-10 hours a day.
  • Make sure you eat well, avoid alcohol, and get a good night’s sleep before your journey.
  • Pack some snacks and plenty of water, to help keep your energy and hydration levels up).
  • If you take medication, check any instructions or side effects before your journey. You should speak to your doctor or a healthcare professional if you’re unsure.
  • If you’re travelling with friends or family, consider having someone else with you who can take over the driving if needed. Motability Scheme customers are allowed up to three named drivers as part of their lease package, and you can also add a temporary driver if needed.

Learn more about adding named drivers to your Motability Scheme lease

Tips for staying alert while driving

  • Open a window to get some fresh air in.
  • Take regular breaks – the Highway Code recommends that you include 15-minute breaks for every two hours of driving.
  • Find somewhere safe to take a nap if you start to feel tired
  • Drink two cups of coffee and wait for the caffeine to kick in – but still watch out for signs of tiredness

When it comes to driving, you should always stay on the side of caution. By planning your journeys and staying attuned to your body’s needs, you’ll have a much smoother and more comfortable drive.

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