32.1M drivers will quadruple crash risk this summer – UK’s drowsiest cities revealed

Side view young male driver closed his eyes and rests with his hand on the steering wheel and the other on his forehead.

A new study by insurance provider, Chill, reveals 32.1 million UK drivers face four-times the risk of accidents this summer, due to dangerous levels of fatigue.

The study reveals a quarter (25%) admitted to narrowly avoiding a fatal accident due to their own drowsiness. Despite this, over a third (35%) plan to skip rest stops on summer road trips this year, even when feeling too exhausted to drive.

It’s estimated that driver fatigue is likely to account for up to 20% of all UK vehicle collisions. However, half of UK drivers (50%) say they regularly drive on 5 hours sleep or less, which Chill reveals could quadruple accident risk as it is in a state comparable to being over the legal alcohol limit.

Analysing data from UK drivers, four in ten (40%) confess to feeling so drowsy behind the wheel that they risked falling asleep, and over two-fifths (42%) report regularly feeling exhausted when driving.

Examining seasonality and its impact, one in three (30%) state they feel more fatigued driving in summer compared to other months. With two in five (40%) reporting the heat itself as a significant contributor to drowsiness, and nearly a quarter (23%) say dehydration levels cause them to feel more fatigued whilst driving in summer.

Despite the data showing a heightened risk of drowsy driving in the UK, only 27% say they prioritise napping or resting when driving tired. Instead, many admit to resorting to unsafe methods like opening car windows (46%), playing loud music (28%), consuming sugary drinks (17%), and eating snacks (22%).

Analysing the additional driver challenges the summer months bring, over two-fifths of UK drivers (43%) identified windscreen glare from the sun as a major distraction, further compromising their ability to focus.

The study looks at driver fatigue levels on a city scale, analysing data from UK cities, revealing the locations with the highest number of drowsy drivers. Topping the list is Sheffield where a staggering 63% of drivers admit to frequently driving while fatigued.

Why does summer increase drowsy driving?

Ian O’Reilly, Head of Personal Line Sales and Road Safety Expert at Chill says: “While fatigue is a year-round threat, several factors unique to summer make it a prime season for drowsy drivers and potential accidents. Hot weather disrupts sleep patterns, dehydration zaps energy, and sun glare can cause dangerous distractions for drivers”.

Ian O’Reilly continues: “To stay safe this summer, plan trips for cooler morning hours whenever possible. If driving at night is unavoidable, prioritise breaks every two hours, even if you feel okay. Get out of the car, walk around, and splash some cool water on your face. A short burst of refreshment can make a world of difference behind the wheel. The Stop, Sip, Sleep method is accepted as best practice, which you should refer to before heading off on your journey”.

According to the study, Sheffield takes the unwanted crown for the drowsiest city in the UK. A staggering 63% of drivers in Sheffield admit to frequently driving while fatigued. This fatigue epidemic is further amplified by the alarming number of Sheffield drivers (67%) who report getting less than 5 hours of sleep per night. These combined factors create a recipe for disaster on Sheffield’s roads, with 41% of drivers admitting to feeling so fatigued they nearly fell asleep at the wheel – a number mirrored in Belfast.

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