Suffolk: Motorists warned over driving while tired as new figures reveal extent of fatigue-related accidents

Five drivers have died and a total of 161 accidents have been caused by road fatigue in the last fiv

Five drivers have died and a total of 161 accidents have been caused by road fatigue in the last five years in the county. - Credit: Andrew Partridge

Road safety campaigners last night warned tiredness is one of the biggest killers facing drivers after figures revealed a fatigue-related accident happens every two weeks in Suffolk.

Five drivers have died and a total of 161 accidents have been caused by road fatigue in the last five years in the county.

The Suffolk Police figures, released under freedom of information (FOI) laws, mean a fatigue-related accident takes place nearly every 11 days on the county’s roads.

Of the five fatal accidents, two were killed and while the other three were ruled as accidental deaths following inquests, with no further police action taken.

The statistics have prompted road safety campaigners to issue a warning to Suffolk’s motorists, urging them to take preventative measures to safeguard against nodding off at the wheel.

Last month 21-year-old motorist William Newton, of Haughley Drive, Rushmere St Andrew, was jailed for six months and banned from driving for 12 months after falling asleep and smashing in to another car following a night out.

He told police he had got up at 6.45am after getting in at 2am and thought he was “OK” to drive on September 30, 2012.

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Laura Woods, spokesman for Brake, said: “These high levels of fatigue-related road crashes are cause for great concern. Driver tiredness is one of the biggest killers on the roads particularly on motorways and other monotonous roads.

“The only way to avoid the potentially devastating consequences of driving tired is to get plenty of sleep before driving and take regular breaks.

“We urge drivers to take breaks at least every two hours, and never to drive when overtired.”

The FOI figures were recorded after the attending police officer “determined that fatigue may have contributed to the accident”.

There were 42 fatigue-related accidents in 2009/10 – the highest rate of the last five financial years – equating to a collision caused by tiredness nearly every eight days.

One in 10 motorists admitted to falling asleep at the wheel nationally, LV= car insurance research revealed last month.

Kevin Clinton, head of road safety at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), said driver fatigue contributes up to 20% of road accidents and up to 25% of fatal and serious accidents, according to research.

“Sleep is the only cure for tiredness, so if people begin to feel tired while driving it is essential that they take a proper break,” he added.

“A driver who has fallen asleep cannot brake or swerve to avoid or reduce the impact of a crash.

“If you start to feel sleepy while at the wheel, find somewhere safe to stop but not in the hard shoulder; drink one or two cups of strong coffee or other high caffeine drinks; and take a nap of about 15 minutes.”

A Suffolk Police spokesman said: “Driving while you are tired can be a significant hazard and police often have to deal with the aftermath of collisions that have been caused by a lapse in concentration.

“A moment of inattention can result in serious consequences and you risk harming not only yourself but other innocent members of the public.

“It is your responsibility to ensure you are not impaired when you get behind the wheel and we would recommend that drivers take regular breaks.

“Do not drive if you feel tired, or if you feel yourself getting drowsy while driving stop and if necessary take a nap before continuing your journey.”