Half of Motorists in Leeds Admit to Driving While Sleep Deprived, New Study Finds

Half of Motorists in Leeds Admit to Driving While Sleep Deprived, New Study Finds
Half of Motorists in Leeds Admit to Driving While Sleep Deprived, New Study Finds

It’s vital that motorists are awake and alert when out on the roads. Driving while tired leads to slow reaction times and reduced attention, making it difficult to keep control of the vehicle. In fact, according to Brake, the road safety charity, driver fatigue could be as dangerous as drink-driving.

However, many drivers admit to getting behind the wheel after having very little sleep. A new study by Leeds-based used car dealers, Big Motoring World found that the majority (55%) of drivers have driven after under five hours of sleep.

With so many of us taking the risk, just how much of a difference does a good night’s sleep make on the way we drive?

How much sleep should we be getting?

Healthy adults need at least seven hours of sleep. If you have health issues, it may be that you need more sleep, but on average, seven hours is the amount needed in order to be able to function well during the day.

However, sleep quality is also important. Parents of a newborn may be able to achieve seven hours of sleep, but this will be broken up due to needing to feed and change their baby. Similarly, if the room we sleep in isn’t comfortable, causing us to be too hot or cold in the night, this can have an impact on how deeply we sleep due to our comfort levels being disturbed.

Not having enough quality sleep can lead to mental and physical symptoms. We can lose concentration and be sleepy during the day, causing irritability, anxiety or stress. Physically, it can put pressure on our hearts, cause headaches and lead to conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

The impacts of sleep deprivation on driving

Sleep deprivation is already addressed in The Highway Code. Rule 91 says that “driving when you are tired greatly increases your risk of collision”. Minimising this risk by not beginning a journey while tired and ensuring you’re well rested before getting behind the wheel is key to being safe on the roads.

As part of its study, Big Motoring World spoke to Dr Deborah Lee from Dr Fox Online Pharmacy. She explained that once a person has been awake for 18 hours, they show the same changes in hand-eye coordination and reaction times as someone with a blood alcohol level of 0.05%. After 20 hours of staying awake, further deterioration in function equates to a blood alcohol of 0.08%. The alcohol drink-drive limit in the UK is 0.08%.

With this in mind, it’s clear there are similarities between driving while tired and driving while drunk. When as many as 20% of car crashes are due to sleep deprivation, it’s important to be aware of how much sleep we’re getting before we drive anywhere.

The most sleep-deprived regions

Interestingly, while most UK drivers have driven a car after getting fewer than five hours of sleep at least once in the past, the same percentage (55%) believe that driving after less than five hours’ sleep is either as dangerous, or more dangerous, than drink-driving.

So, where in the UK are we most likely to encounter tired drivers? The survey picked out the country’s major cities. In Leeds, over half (53%) admit to driving while sleep deprived. But in the top spot is Belfast, where three-quarters of motorists are behind the wheel after too-little sleep. This was closely followed by Bristol (72%), while almost two-thirds (62%) of motorists in Nottingham are tired.

Also, slightly more women (56%) admit to driving while sleep-deprived than men (53%). But women were also more likely than men to agree that sleep-deprived drivers should be punished as harshly as drink-drivers.

So, it’s vital that you get some rest before you hit the road. If you have a long journey ahead, plan in some time to rest and be sure to only get behind the wheel if you feel alert.

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