The research was carried out by Fleet News' stablemate magazine Max Power and the RAC Foundation, following recent hard-hitting Government safety campaigns on the dangers of fatigue. Government statistics suggest that 10% of all road casualties and 20% of all motorway accidents are caused by drivers who fall asleep behind the wheel.
The Max Power/RAC Foundation survey found that young people had a frightening disregard for the dangers of fatigue and driving, with one in four people saying they had driven after being awake for over 24 hours, and 25% saying the hard shoulder 'rumble strip' was the only thing that prevented them from being involved in a serious sleep accident.
Many young drivers felt that the motorway services could be partially to blame: 55% said that motorway service goods were a 'rip off', and 44% said they relied on fresh air and loud music to keep them awake. Only 24% said they would consider taking a short nap or sleeping before continuing their journey.
Max Power editor John Sootheran, said: 'Our research shows that sleep driving is a massive problem, but with the pressures of work and home life, I don't see things improving. Generally, people do it through necessity, not choice.
'Employers should be aware of the driving demands they place on their staff, especially young drivers.'
The danger time for falling asleep at the wheel is between 4am and 6am when a motorist is 13 times more likely to have a sleep related accident as someone who is driving in the middle of the morning or early evening. Mid-afternoon (2pm-4pm) is also a danger time.
Some researchers claim that motorists can suffer from 'highway hypnosis', which is a trance-like state induced by the monotony of motorways and other trunk routes which render driver oblivious to external events.
The RAC Foundation insists sleep is not something over which drivers have no control, and says accepting the need for rest and acting upon it could help to avoid accidents in the future.