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One in ten motorists fall asleep behind the wheel

Press release: 10/05/2013

  • One in ten motorists have fallen asleep behind the wheel in the past 12 months [1]
  • Official Police figures reveal that at least 3,357 fatigue related road accidents have been recorded in the past five years
  • Drivers travel an average of 26 metres when they ‘nod off’ at the wheel

One in ten drivers – 3.4 million motorists – have fallen asleep while driving in the past 12 months.

New research from LV= car insurance reveals that these motorists drive at an average speed of 50 mph when they nod-off, in which time they cover an average distance of 26 metres – the equivalent of two double-decker buses [2]. This means that in the past year alone dozing motorists drove a total distance of more than 55,000 miles [3].

Official Police figures, obtained via a Freedom of Information request, reveal that there were more than 3,357 fatigue related road accidents recorded over the past five years. Yet only 15 police forces out of 51 were able to provide this information and so the actual figure is likely to be closer 11,000.

Of the 3.4 million motorists who confessed they had fallen asleep behind the wheel in the past 12 months, one in twenty (5%) say they had an accident and almost a third (29%) either swerved or veered off the road while dozing.

Many motorists admit they sometimes risk driving despite knowing they are too tired to safely operate a vehicle. Close to a third (28%) say they have got behind the wheel of their car while they were feeling drowsy and a fifth (19%) admit they’ve hardly been able to keep their eyes open while driving.

The monotony of motorways and dual carriageways combined with a lack of sleep, are the main reasons cited for dozing while driving. Others blame long distance driving to get to a holiday destination, feeling tired after a late shift at work or feeling drowsy after taking medication [4].

Typically drivers fall asleep behind the wheel at night when there is not much light and fewer cars on the road. Over half (56%) of those who fell asleep while driving say it happened between 8pm and 6am. The issue is particularly prevalent in male drivers, who are nearly three times as likely to fall asleep at the wheel than their female equivalents (33% of men compared to 12% of women).

John O’Roarke, Managing Director of LV= car insurance, comments: "The research shows that when people fall asleep behind the wheel it is usually because they are on a long monotonous road and haven’t taken a break, or they haven’t had enough sleep the night before. Falling asleep while driving, even momentarily, is extremely dangerous but taking regular breaks from driving can help prevent it. If you know you are going to be driving long distance, plan ahead and make sure you have sufficient time to rest.”

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Notes to editors:

LV= commissioned PCP research to question 2,511 British adults (aged 18+), of which 80% currently drive. The research took place between 15-22 of April 2013.

A freedom of information request was sent to all 51 Police forces in England, Wales and Scotland requesting information about fatigue related road accidents and arrests. To date, 15 constabularies have been able to provide at least one piece of the data requested.

[1] Source: PCP. 9% of all motorists admit that they’ve fallen asleep behind the wheel of a car in the past 12 months. The UK adult population is 47.7 million. According to the research 80% of UK adults currently drive (38,160,000 adults). Of these 9% fell asleep behind the wheel in the past year (3,434,400 adults).

[2] Source: PCP. Motorists estimate that they nod off for an average of 1.17 seconds when they fall asleep behind the wheel, and that when they fall asleep behind the wheel they are traveling at an average of 50.18 miles per hour. This would be the equivalent distance of 0.0162 miles travelled, or 26 metres. Double-decker buses are an average of 9.5 to 11 metres.

[3] Source: PCP. The UK adult population is 47.7 million. According to the research 80% of UK adults currently drive (38,160,000 adults). Of these 9% fell asleep behind the wheel in the past year (3,434,400 adults). These drivers travel an average of 26 metres while asleep behind the wheel. 3,434,400 x 26 = 89,294,400 metres, the equivalent of 55,485 miles.

[4] Source: PCP. When questioned on the reasons why drivers fell asleep behind the wheel, 48% said it was because they were on a long and monotonous road. 25% said it was because they had less sleep than usual the night before, 11% said they were driving a long distance to a holiday destination, 11% said they were driving home after a late shift at work, and 3% said they had taken medication that caused drowsiness.

About LV=

LV= employs 5700 people and serves over five million customers with a range of financial products. We are the UK’s largest friendly society and a leading financial mutual.

When we started in 1843 our goal was to give financial security to more than just a privileged few and for many decades we were most commonly associated with providing a method of saving to people of modest means. Today we follow a similar purpose, helping people to protect and provide for the things they love, although on a much larger scale and through a wide range of financial services including insurance, investment and retirement products.

We offer our services direct to consumers, as well as through IFAs and brokers, and through strategic partnerships with organisations such as ASDA, Nationwide Building Society and a range of trade unions.

Authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. LVFS is a member of the ABI, the AFM and ILAG. Registered address: County Gates, Bournemouth BH1 2NF.