Half of the UK's van drivers have almost fallen asleep at the wheel

Van drivers feel more tired in the autumn and winter compared to summer, and half have nearly fallen asleep at the wheel, according to new research.

The survey by Mercedes-Benz Vans found that more than eight in 10 (83%) van drivers in the UK feel more tired at this time of the year and 45% admitted that they suffer from low mood more in the darker, colder months. Another one in three (30%) said they experience symptoms akin to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in winter.

As a result of the darker days, 40% of van drivers said they suffered from fatigue, and 48% confessed that in the past they had nearly dropped off while driving. A major factor is the amount of time spent on the road, with 61% of those who spend more than 50 hours of their working week in their van feeling more fatigued in winter, compared to 41% of those who work between 15 and 20 hours a week in their van.

Almost two-thirds (62%) of the respondents said they take a break when they feel tired, while 58% wind down a window, hoping that a blast of fresh air will do the trick.
“Although no one should be afraid to drive during the darkness of a winter’s morning or evening, it is something that requires extra consideration before even setting out on the road,” said Steve Bridge, managing director of Mercedes-Benz Vans UK Ltd.

The best way to avoid driving tired is to get plenty of rest beforehand, particularly if you’re setting off early in the morning, according to road safety charity Brake. Drivers should also plan long journeys to include rest breaks of at least 15 minutes at least every two hours — and if you feel tired before then, make sure you stop and rest as soon as possible. Research shows that alternative measures such as winding down the window, listening to music and talking to a passenger do not help.


When you take a break, it’s worth bearing in mind that a 15-minute nap is more effective in reducing sleepiness than an active break such as getting out of the vehicle and walking around.
And drinking a caffeinated drink such as coffee or an energy drink before taking a short nap has been shown to reduce crash risk — but this is only a short-term solution, and cannot replace regular breaks and sufficient sleep.

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