Department for Transport
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Think! that yawn could save your life

Think! that yawn could save your life

DEPARTMENT FOR TRANSPORT News Release (057) issued by The Government News Network on 25 March 2008

Actor Joseph Fiennes urges motorists: Don't drive tired

Acting star Joseph Fiennes is the voice of a new Government campaign launched today to remind motorists of the dangers of driving when tired.

One in five of all crashes on major roads are caused by tired drivers but research shows many motorists are ignoring the simplest sign - the common yawn - that it's time for a break.

Road Safety Minister Jim Fitzpatrick said:

"We all want to finish our journeys as quickly as possible but being tired at the wheel is a proven killer that we cannot ignore.

"People who drive for work are particularly at risk but there are simple steps we can all take to make our journeys safer. Plan regular stops into a long trip and if you find yourself yawning pull over and take a break - this could make the difference between life and death."

A You Gov poll of British drivers announced today shows only 18% of motorists always take a yawn as a sign to pull over.

Dr Neil Stanley, a sleep expert from the Clinical Trials and Research Unit at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, said:

"People read a yawn all wrong - they often mistake the energising effect that comes immediately after as a sign they can carry on, but tests prove this is not the case.

"Yawning quite simply means you're on the road to falling asleep - so if you're yawning behind the wheel it really is time to pull over."

Out of the 1,500 motorists polled by You Gov only one in five (22%) always plan breaks in their car journeys, while more than a quarter (26%) admit to having driven for up to or more than four hours without a break.

The poll also showed that:

* Four percent have driven for more than seven hours without a break.

* More than half (54%) of motorists at least occasionally try to beat their journey time on a trip they have done before.

* Three-quarters of motorists open a window to keep themselves awake on a long journey, while 4% shake their head vigorously and 3% slap their face.

Many drivers believe they can fight fatigue but the only real cure is sleep. The THINK! campaign's advice is straightforward:

* Don't start a long trip if you're already tired.

* Plan your journey to include a 15-minute break every two hours.

* If you feel drowsy find a safe place to stop (not the hard shoulder).

* As an emergency measure drink two cups of coffee or a high-caffeine drink and have a rest for 10-15 minutes to allow time for the caffeine to kick in.

The new £800,000 THINK! campaign includes a new hard-hitting radio advert featuring Joseph Fiennes, online advertising on journey planning websites, partnership marketing and messaging at service station washrooms, forecourts and petrol pumps. The campaign has been primarily targeted at people who drive for work as research shows they are at particular risk.


Notes to Editors

1. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,071 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 17th and 19th March 2008. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+)

2. Research on accidents caused by tired drivers is Driver Sleepiness: Overview of findings from phrase three of the DfT research programme, 16th August 2001.

3. For more information on driving when tired visit

4. The campaign has a number of partners including EasyCar and Michelin.

5. Neil Stanley Biography

Dr. Neil Stanley has been involved in sleep research since 1982 when he started working at the Neurosciences Division of the R.A.F. Institute of Aviation Medicine.

In the early 1990 he moved to the Human Psychopharmacology Research Unit, part of the University of Surrey, where as Director of Sleep Research he created and ran a 24 bed clinical trials sleep lab. He has 27 peer-reviewed publications on many aspects of sleep research and psychopharmacology.

He is member of the Executive Committee of the Assembly of National Sleep Societies which is currently writing guidelines for sleep medicine education in Europe and is past Chairman of the British Sleep Society. He recently took up post as Manager of the Clinical Trials & Research Unit at the Norwich and Norfolk University Hospital.

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