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Short-term disruption to sleep poses significant driving risk

13 April 2016

An experiment conducted by Driving for Better Business partner TRL and involving adult triplets has demonstrated the ‘terrifying effects of sleep deprivation’ in relation to driving.

Funded by Time4Sleep.co.uk, the experiment concluded that reaction times become significantly slower and the risk of falling asleep at the wheel increases significantly through a lack of sleep, even in the short term. The experiment tested the driving ability of triplets Robert, Steven and Patrick Davis, the morning after they experienced different periods of sleep. Robert was afforded the luxury of a full night’s (normal) sleep, Steven a disrupted sleep (thanks to a lifelike robotic baby) while Patrick remained awake all night.

The next day the triplets each drove the same driving simulator, made as true to real life as possible. They were asked to stick to the inside lane of the three-lane motorway and drive at a constant speed of 60mph. They also had their heart rate monitored. The results revealed that even disrupted sleep can have a huge impact on driving ability. Robert (normal sleep) had no fatigue alerts from the heart rate monitor and the fewest lane departures (30 departures and a total of 39 seconds out of his lane). This compared to four fatigue alerts and 58 lane departures lasting a total of one minute and 40 seconds for Steven (disrupted sleep), while Patrick (no sleep) recorded 12 fatigue alerts and 188 lane departures, equivalent to six minutes and 26 seconds. Interestingly, Steven, who had a disrupted sleep, had the slowest reaction time (a mean of 1.66 seconds) compared to 1.48 seconds for ‘no sleep’ Patrick and 1.02 seconds for ‘full sleep’ Robert.

Simon Tong, principal psychologist at TRL, said, “The findings of our experiment reveal just how important it is to only undertake driving when feeling alert and having had sufficient sleep."

To watch the video please click here.

For further information on the Driving for Better Business website concerning sleep disorders and driving when tired, please click here.

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