One in eight drivers has nodded off at the wheel in the past year, according to research published by road safety charity Brake.
'Head-nodding' occurs when someone sleeps between two and 30 seconds, often without realising they're doing it.
Nearly 90% of drivers ignore official advice, by failing to stop and take a nap when tired. Julie Townsend, Brakes campaigns director, said: 'Tiredness at the wheel kills. Driving a vehicle is a huge responsibility that must be taken seriously. That means stopping when we feel drowsy and certainly never starting a journey tired. Its a matter of life and death.'
20% of deaths caused by tired drivers
One in five fatal motorway crashes is caused by tired drivers, experts at the Department for Transport have estimated. Drivers falling asleep at the wheel dont brake before crashing and therefore incidents tend to be high-speed, increasing the risk of death or serious injury.
Young drivers are more likely to drive when tired, with 25% of young drivers admitting to have head-nodded in the past year and 55% saying they'd driven while tired.
Head-nodding, referred to by clinicians as microsleeps occurs when people are tired, but trying to stay awake. Nodding off for a few seconds can be fatal. At 70mph; a six second nod could carry you 200m across 3 lanes of traffic and down an embankment.
Here are some tips on how to stay safe while driving
• Get plenty of rest, and plan your journey to include rests
• Take a 15-minute break every two hours
• Take heed of warning signs if you feel tired, stop for a break
• If you drink caffeine, drink two cups of coffee and then have a snooze. The caffeine will take effect in 10-15 minutes
• The effect of caffeine is temporary, the only long-term solution to tiredness is sleep
• If you feel tired during the day, check with your doctor for treatable sleep disorders