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How sleep deprivation affects driving

sleeping at the wheel

New research which took place at the UK’s Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) has revealed the dangers of driving whilst tired.

To ensure the experiment was as fair as possible, a set of 27-year-old triplets were sourced. The triplets then had a night involving differing levels of sleep. One had a full night of sleep, one has a disrupted sleep with a robotic baby waking him up to mimic the sleeping patterns of new parents and one stayed up all night to mimic those who work nights.

The next day, the triplets each drove the same driving simulator for 90 minutes, whilst wearing a heart rate monitor which alerted the researchers to when their heart rate dropped. They were asked to rate their level of sleepiness every five minutes and were tested on their reaction times.

See the twins’ video diaries and the experiment below:

Interestingly, the twin with disrupted sleep had the slowest reaction times, which could highlight that people with some sleep are still putting themselves and others in danger by driving.

Time4Sleep.co.uk, who commissioned and funded the research, also commissioned a survey of 1000 UK drivers to support the experiment. The data discovered that over three quarters of drivers (83%) have driven tired with 1 in 10 confessing to do it regularly.

Of those asked, 1 in 4 (23%) would be willing to drive for 30 – 60 minutes whilst feeling tired, which could involve driving on a motorway A further 27% of respondents confessed they had driven long distance while feeling tired.

When it comes to gender, men are more likely to put people at risk with 40% saying they had in the past compared to 28% of women.

Jonathan Warren, Director at Time4Sleep.co.uk who commissioned the research, said: “Driving is now a large part of people’s lives and there are thousands of vehicles on the road, all of which have a great responsibility to ensure the safety of others. Many of these are commuting first thing in the morning or late at night to and from work, making fatigue a key issue in the motoring world.

“We hope our video and research highlights the importance of a good night’s sleep and that it will make tired drivers consider if driving is really necessary in those situations where they do not feel fit to drive.”

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