October 3, 2023
Did you know that your ability behind the wheel deteriorates after just two hours of continuous driving? According to road safety charity, Brake, after this you will be less able to concentrate and your reaction time to hazards begin to slow down. Additionally, the longer you drive, the more rest you require in order to recover the driving performance lost due to fatigue. The Highway Code states that “a minimum break of at least 15 minutes after every two hours of driving is recommended”, but how many drivers in the UK actually adhere to the Highway Code recommendations, and how many are jeopardising their safety by not doing so? To find out, Wessex Fleet surveyed 1,000 drivers on their long journey habits behind the wheel.
- 15.2 million UK drivers are driving for too long, with 43.7% of drivers admitting they do not take a break after two hours of driving, as recommended by The Highway Code.
- Around 7.6 million drivers need to take longer breaks when driving long distances.
- 1.3 million UK drivers are likely to never take a break while driving long distances.
- Scotland has the highest percentage of drivers (62.7%) that do not follow The Highway Code’s recommendations on resting on long journeys.
- Edinburgh is the worst city for fatigued drivers.
15.2 Million UK Drivers are Driving while Fatigued
Wessex Fleet asked 1,000 drivers, how long do they travel before taking a break? The results showed that 43.7% of drivers admitted to driving for longer than the recommended two hours before stopping. It’s estimated that there are 34.8 million people who currently hold a driving licence, this means that there are potentially 15,207,600 UK drivers on the roads each year driving while fatigued. Out of those 1,000 drivers, nearly one in 25 (3.4%) admitted to never taking a break when driving long distances.
This is a shocking discovery, especially when around 10% and 20% of all road crashes are fatigue-related.
Scottish Drivers Top the List for Lengthiest Drives Without Breaks
Delving into the findings a little more we can see that almost two-thirds (62.7%) of drivers living in Scotland admit to driving more than two hours before taking a break. This was higher than any other region in the UK with drivers from Wales coming next with 52.3%, followed by those in Greater London with 49.1%.
Scotland is where we found the worst drivers at a city level too, with Edinburgh and Glasgow ranked first and second for fatigued driving. 63% of Edinburgh drivers told us that they didn’t take a break before the two hour limit with Glaswegians not faring much better at 59.2%.
However, you could easily argue that despite coming first and second, drivers from Edinburgh and Glasgow aren’t as dangerous as those from Liverpool. According to our survey, Liverpudlians had the highest percentage of those who answered that they never took a break when driving long distances, with 11.4%, beating Edinburgh and Nottingham drivers who both tied with 7.4%.
The North-East Ranks Best for Well-Rested Drivers
At the other end of the scale, we can see that drivers from the North East of England are the best in the UK for knowing when to stop before they get too tired, with 61.1% of drivers saying they stop before the two hour mark. They were also the only region where no drivers (0%) admitted to never stopping during their journey, compared to the other 12 regions, which all had at least one respondent who did.
Their biggest city, Newcastle also came out on top compared to other cities, boasting a solid 65% of drivers saying they take a break at least every two hours. Southampton drivers came next with 61.7%, followed by Sheffield drivers with 60.9%.
Wessex Fleet Calculates that 7.6 Million Drivers Need to Take Longer Breaks when Driving Long Distances
In the second part of our survey, we asked drivers how long they tend to stop for when driving a long distance? As a reminder, The Highway Code recommends that drivers stop every two hours for at least 15 minutes.
The survey results show that more than one in five (21.9%) of UK drivers do not take an adequate break in order to recover fully before getting back onto the road. If we look at that as a percentage of the number of people with a driving licence in the UK, that equates to around 7.6 million drivers who are currently taking long journeys and are fatigued while doing so.
Drivers from Northern Ireland Rank Worst for Recovery Time Taken
Drivers from Northern Ireland have been shown to be the least likely to take the recommended recovery time when travelling long distances. According to our survey, almost two in every five (39.3%) drivers admit to getting back into the car and driving away too soon. Those from Yorkshire and the Humber were the second worst with one in three (30.4%) drivers admitting to taking less than 15 minutes to recover from a drive, followed by East Midlands drivers with 27.5% admitting the same.
Similarly to the result of the previous question, (where Scotland ranked as the worst region and then one of its biggest cities, Edinburgh, ranked worst at a city level), here we find Belfast as the worst city for drivers that don’t take enough time to recover from a long drive. Belfast actually had the same percentage as Northern Ireland overall at 39.3%, with Liverpool coming second at 31.4% and then Sheffield at 30.4%.
Ford Drivers are the Most Likely to Have an Accident Due to Fatigue
During the survey, we also asked drivers to tell us what car they drive. The results show that Ford drivers are the most likely to have an accident as almost one in five (19.4%) admit to not stopping during long drives, the highest compared to other car brands. They and Vauxhall drivers also come out as the worst for stopping for less than 15 minutes, with one in nine (10.8%) drivers wanting to get back on the road too soon, ultimately putting themselves and others in danger.
Tips for Staying Safe When Driving Long Distances
If you’re embarking on a long-distance drive in the near future, follow these 10 tips to make sure you’re fully prepared before you set off.
1. Plan Your Route
Planning your route before you set off is a vital part of the journey, even though you haven’t set off yet. Adequate planning involves considering contingencies, such as road works or making sure there are enough electric chargers throughout the journey. Wessex Fleet has an in-depth guide if you want to learn more about charging while travelling long distances.
2. Get Plenty of Rest
It may sound simple but getting a good night’s sleep before the long drive is something many people forget to consider before the trip. According to Brake, drivers with typical sleep patterns are most likely to experience drowsiness and reduced concentration behind the wheel during two primary periods: the early morning hours between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. and the early afternoon hours from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. These time frames align with the natural dips in our body’s internal clock, leading to increased susceptibility to falling asleep while driving.
There’s also something called ‘Microsleep’, where a driver may feel like they’ve just briefly nodded their head, but they have actually been asleep and can last between two and 30 seconds. Did you know that in just six seconds, a vehicle travelling at a speed of 70 miles per hour covers a distance of approximately 200 metres? This distance is substantial enough to potentially allow the vehicle to shift across three traffic lanes!
3. Give the Car a Once-Over
It’s vital to check your car before any drive but especially before long-distance ones. Here’s a quick checklist to get you started. We also have a more detailed version you can read in our guides section.
1. Visual Inspection
Give the car a quick glance from all sides. Does everything look normal?
2. Check Your Tyres
They are the only thing between you and the road so make sure the tread is above the legal limit and has the correct pressure.
3. Check Fluid Levels
Check that your oil, engine coolant and screen wash fluids are at the right level.
4. Check Lights
Check that your headlights, high beams, rear lights, fog lights, brake lights, indicators and reversing lights are working correctly.
5. Brake Tests
To ensure the proper functioning of your vehicle, perform two essential checks. The initial check involves depressing the brake pedal before starting the engine; it should exhibit a firm, non-slack feel. Then turn on the engine and find a safe location to firmly apply the brakes while driving. The vehicle should come to a prompt stop without veering to one side.
6. Check the Electrics
Check that your electric windows, air conditioning/heating system and power steering are all functioning properly.
4. Pack for Emergencies
Here are some essentials we recommend you have with you before every long journey.
- First Aid Kit
- Roadside Safety Kit (including hi-vis gear, reflective triangle, foil blanket, jump leads, tow rope, tape, and non-slip gloves)
- Spare Tire
- Jerry Can
5. Have Your Documents at the Ready
When on the road you should always be equipped with your driving licence, car insurance details, travel insurance documents and the contact details for a breakdown service.
6. Take Regular Breaks
Remember, The Highway Code recommends that you take a minimum break of at least 15 minutes after every two hours of driving.
7. Driving Abroad
When you drive in a different country, it’s important to remember that not all rules are the same as they are in the UK. Here is a list of essential documents and a required equipment list for driving in the EU.
Essential Documents for Driving in Europe:
- Your valid full driving licence and national insurance number.
- Proof of vehicle insurance.
- Valid proof of identification (such as your passport).
- The V5C certificate, also known as the ‘log book.’
- Your travel insurance documents.
- European Breakdown Cover policy number and related documents.
- Before departure, ensure that your vehicle’s tax and MOT (Ministry of Transport) are both valid and up-to-date.
- If you’re driving in France, check if you need a Crit’air sticker (emissions sticker) and obtain one if necessary.
Required Equipment for Driving in Europe:
- Reflective jackets - You must have one for each passenger, kept within the car’s cabin.
- Warning triangle - Mandatory in most European countries.
- Headlamp beam deflectors - Depending on your car’s make and model, you may need deflector stickers or manual beam adjustment.
- Safety helmets - Compulsory for riders and passengers of motorcycles and mopeds.
- UK car sticker - If your vehicle does not have a GB Euro number plate, or for driving in Cyprus, Malta, or Spain, regardless of your number plate.
- First aid kit - Mandatory in Austria, France, and Germany.
Simon Naylor, Director of Wessex Fleet, added: “It’s worrying to see that over 40% of drivers admitted to driving over the recommended time without taking a break, according to the highway code. We know driving and concentrating over a long distance, can cause reaction times to decrease if a driver is tired. A fatigued driver could also be prone to causing an accident and could be fined for ‘dangerous driving’, which is an unlimited fine and can lead to disqualification or imprisonment at worst. When covering long-distance drives make sure to take plenty of rest stops, each lasting for a good amount of time, and also switch drivers if you can to avoid being tired behind the wheel.”
Wessex Fleet conducted a survey of 1,000 respondents asking them about their long-distance driving habits. Data was then collected and the result was revealed. Additional information, such as rules and regulations as well as recommendations and tips on how to travel safely were gathered from multiple sources highlighted within the copy.