More than half of drivers are risking nodding off behind the wheel by ignoring basic advice on rest breaks, according to a survey by Direct Line and road safety charity Brake.
Motorists are advised to take a short break at least every two hours on long journeys to stay alert. However, of those surveyed only 45 per cent did so, with a worrying nine per cent admitting that they didn’t stop at all on long journeys unless they absolutely had to.
Drivers are also not preparing effectively for long journeys, with less than half ensuring they get at least seven hours sleep before embarking on a long drive. Driving after five hours’ sleep gives you just a one in ten chance of being able to stay awake fully throughout a lengthy road trip.
The survey also found that male drivers are more likely not to take rest breaks, with 14 per cent admitting to driving six hours or more without stopping, compared to just three per cent of women.
A third of drivers are also risking an accident by attempting to continue driving when they feel sleepy at the wheel, with male drivers again more likely to take the risk.
Though driving while not completely alert may seem a minor concern to some motorists, it is a serious issue, estimated to be the cause of one in five deaths on major roads. In 2011, 84 people were killed and 420 seriously injured as a result of tiredness-related crashes.
Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive of Brake, said: "A large proportion of the driving public are scarily confident they can push on through on long drives without stopping. In reality, regular breaks – at least every two hours – are essential for staying alert and awake, as is getting plenty of sleep the night before.
“Sleepiness can catch you unawares at the wheel and it only takes a couple of seconds on a motorway to cause absolute carnage. The summer means long journeys for many families hoping to catch some sun at the coast or abroad.
“Brake is warning that to make sure you and your loved ones get there safely you need to allow plenty of time to take it easy, take regular rest breaks, and ensure you get a full night's sleep beforehand."