1 in 10 Drivers Admit to Nodding Off At the Wheel

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RSA & Topaz to combat driver fatigue

New research released by the Road Safety Authority (RSA) shows that over 1 in 10 drivers (14%) have admitted to nodding off or falling asleep while driving.

Among the 800 drivers in the survey revealed that more than half of Irish drivers (53%) attempt to fight tiredness through ineffective means such as opening windows.

The findings come as the RSA and Topaz launched a year-long campaign on Bank Holiday weekends aimed at highlighting the dangers of driver fatigue. For the rest of the year Topaz has undertaken to provide free coffee to drivers on Bank Holiday Fridays at its countrywide network of company owned sites all over the country.

The ‘Driver Reviver’ campaign will see Ireland’s largest fuels and convenience retailer giving away up to 20,000 free coffees on the Friday leading up to the bank Holiday weekend, at its 105 company owned stations, to help get people to their destinations safely. Posters advertising the free coffees will be in place outside all participating stations.

The new findings re-enforces international research which suggests that driver fatigue could be a contributory factor in 1 in 5 driver deaths in Ireland. Therefore, this silent killer may have claimed more than 350 road deaths in the past 5 years.

Noel Brett, Chief Executive of the Road Safety Authority said; “We are delighted that Topaz has joined with us on this Driver Reviver campaign. The company is making a very practical and worthwhile contribution to road safety and I would urge drivers, particularly any who are feeling tired to avail of their offer of free coffee at participating stations on the Friday. As with every Bank Holiday weekend, there are added risks when using our roads. More people will be taking to the roads, travelling long distances, often without breaks. Scientific studies show that if a driver persists in fighting sleep while driving, the impairment level is the same as driving while over the drink drive limit.”

“To drivers we say; if you are fighting sleep at the wheel, stop immediately. If you can, drink a cup of coffee or caffeine drink but most importantly take a 15 to 20 minute nap. Following the nap stretch your legs and get some fresh air. By following this advice you should be able to drive for another hour or more.”

“Unfortunately, this new research indicates that over half of drivers (53%) respond to feeling sleepy while driving by opening the window, 28% said they stretched their legs and 21% said they turned on the radio. None of these are of help in combating driver fatigue. In fact, these are the people who are most at risk of being involved in a driver fatigue related crash. Never drive if you are fighting sleep or you may never wake up,” continued Mr. Brett.

The Chief Executive of Topaz, Eddie O’Brien also commented: “We are delighted to support the lifesaving work of the RSA and the Gardai Traffic Corps with this Driver Reviver campaign. All drivers have to do is show their car keys to staff at the 105 company owned Topaz service stations nationwide on the Friday leading up to Bank Holiday weekends and request a free coffee. Everyone at Topaz is delighted to support the RSA, the Gardai and all other state agencies involved in reducing traffic collisions on our roads.”

The research, which was conducted by Amarach Research in December 2008 on behalf of the RSA, interviewed over 800 drivers to determine the incidence of long journeys and driving while tired. The research found;

•    Of those who have admitted to falling asleep while driving, almost one in four have experienced this twice in the past 12 months.


•    Males aged between 35 – 54 are most likely to have admitted to falling asleep at the wheel.

•    The average length of journey that led to falling asleep at the wheel was four and a half hours. Almost half of all these incidents (46%) occurred between 9pm and 6am.

•    For those who had fallen asleep at the wheel, one in five admitted that they had drifted out of their lane, e.g. on the hard shoulder and across the centre of the road. Luckily, the majority, 76%, startled awake before a more serious outcome occurred.
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More information on driver tiredness can be found in the RSA’s booklet ‘Driver Tiredness – The Facts’ and can be downloaded from the RSA website www.rsa.ie. A copy of the RSA’s research on driver fatigue can also be downloaded from www.rsa.ie.