Fleet News

Police drivers accused of dozing at the wheel

EXECUTIVES in charge of the UK’s police fleets are considering controversial claims that their drivers are three times more likely to fall asleep behind the wheel than the general public.

A study of more than 500 police officers found that 72% admitted to falling asleep while driving during the previous 12 months, compared with an average of 20% for all motorists.

The report claims that of those officers who fell asleep, nearly one-third had done so more than five times in the past year with one in eight reporting falling asleep more than 10 times.

The document also claimed that 89% of those surveyed who are ranked inspector or above have ‘drifted off’ in their cars, while the figure for constables and sergeants was 76%. For clerical and civilian staff it is 45%.

What was not made clear was whether the description of ‘falling asleep behind the wheel’ includes ‘microsleeps’ – where the driver’s eyes close for a fraction of a second longer than they should do.

The findings are produced in a report by sleep research group Awake.

The group suggested organisational factors could make police officers vulnerable to tiredness with nearly 70% of the sample of police officers being owed rest days, with an average debt of five days.

The research also concluded that many police officers were suffering ‘profound levels of tiredness’. The Association of Chief Police Officers was unable to comment on the claims, first published in The Daily Telegraph, while Awake was yet to provide a more in-depth background to its research.

The issue of health and safety involving the police force was covered at last year’s National Association of Police Fleet Managers conference.

It was said that police fleets still had a long way to go when it comes to health and safety due to a lack of co-ordination between departments (Fleet NewsNet, August 24, 2004). A straw poll conducted at the event revealed that less than a third (28%) had safety policies in place for drivers.

Fleet safety expert Dr Will Murray, research director at Interactive Systems, said at the event: ‘I’m surprised and disappointed to see that so few have introduced such policies.

‘Only five of 90 delegates present said their policies were revised and updated on an annual basis and only two said they checked to see if drivers properly understood the policy.’

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