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Statistics show how many drivers in Kent with sleep problems had their driving licences revoked

Up to 175 people in Kent have had their driving licences revoked after being diagnosed with a sleep-related health problem in the last two years.

Figures from the DVLA show sleep apnoea, in which suffers involuntary wake up for a split second hundreds of times a night, was the most common condition identified, and led to with 105 drivers being taken off the road in 2017-18.

It comes after KentOnline yesterday reported nearly 8,000 people are being treated for the potentially dangerous condition across the county.

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New figures show one in eight UK drivers have fallen asleep at the wheel
New figures show one in eight UK drivers have fallen asleep at the wheel

Another 49 drivers with obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome, where a person stops breathing for 10 seconds or more when asleep, also had their licences cancelled.

Six other motorists diagnosed with narcolepsy - where people suddenly fall asleep at inappropriate times - or catalepsy - where they can suddenly lose consciousness - also had the right to drive take away.

Meanwhile, five people suffering from Parkinson's with "inappropriate drowsiness" were ordered not to get behind the wheel, while other unclassified sleep disorders made up the 10 remaining cases.

Those who had their driving licences revoked included car drivers and bikers as well as bus and lorry drivers registered to addresses in Kent.

The statistics, obtained by a Freedom of Information request, coincide with new research revealing one in eight UK drivers (13%) have fallen asleep at the wheel.

Nearly two-fifths (37%) also admitted they have been so tired they feared they would nod off while driving, according to a survey by the AA Charitable Trust.

The main reasons reported for drivers being tired behind the wheel
The main reasons reported for drivers being tired behind the wheel

The latest road casualty statistics show drowsy drivers contributed to 531 fatal and 351 serious crashes across Great Britain in 2017.

But experts say it is accepted the true figure for fatigue-related road accidents is much higher due to under-reporting.

Last week a 26 year-old woman was jailed for 11 months for causing a crash on the M20 in which the wife of a lorry driver died in the cab.

Jenna Beveridge had driven from Scotland to Kent with just one 20-minute stop when her Mini Cooper drifted into the central reservation and back hitting the HGV, causing it to jack knife and overturn, trapping the victim.

Edmund King, AA Charitable Trust director, said: "One quarter of fatal crashes are sleep related so drowsiness is one of the most under-estimated risks on the roads.

"Tiredness is a fact of life at some point for most of us and it is crucial we know how to manage it in relation to driving.

"Crashes involving a drowsy driver tend to be catastrophic.

"If a driver has fallen asleep at the wheel they do not brake before an impact and make no attempt to steer away from a collision.

"Winding down the window, singing and turning up the radio are not remedies to tiredness – rather a symptom in themselves.

"If you feel tiredness creeping up on you when driving then stop and take a break."

The AA Charitable Trust has launched a year-long Drowsy Driver campaign to raise awareness of the issue and joined forces with the FIA Foundation to produce an advert highlighting the dangers of failing to take a break when tired.

The maximum suggested distance between motorway services is 28 miles and experts involved say one way to reduce accidents is to close the gaps between them.

The M20 at Wrotham was included in a list of 10 areas that would most benefit from additional services, based on data from the AA Trust and AA Routeplanner.

Research shows men are three times as likely as women to say they have fallen asleep at the wheel and people aged between 18 and 24 are most likely to believe being very tired does not affect their driving ability.

Dr Katharina Lederle, sleep expert at and author of Sleep Sense, says drinking caffeine and having a short nap - about 20 minutes - can be short-term solutions for weary drivers.

The latest figures show up to 175 drivers with sleep issues in Kent have had their driving licences revoked
The latest figures show up to 175 drivers with sleep issues in Kent have had their driving licences revoked

"It can help drivers increase their alertness sufficiently to carry on driving for another hour or two," she said.

"But this is no substitute for proper sleep.

"There are certain times of day when the risk of driver fatigue is highest, specifically between 2am and 6am and 2pm and 4pm, when the internal body clock is promoting sleepiness.

"Of course the amount of sleep any individual has had will also affect their susceptibility to fatigue.

"Young drivers may also be more at risk as their need for sleep can be greater and lifestyle factors, such as excessive screen-time in evenings, irregular sleep patterns and consumption of stimulants can have a negative impact on sleep quality."

Sleep clinics and medical professionals have a duty to inform the DVLA of a patient's fitness to drive if they are diagnosed with a dangerous condition such as sleep apnoea.

"There are certain times of day when the risk of driver fatigue is highest, specifically between 2am and 6am and 2pm and 4pm, when the internal body clock is promoting sleepiness" - sleep expert Dr Katharina Lederle

The body then investigates and makes a decision about whether they can retain their licence based on the evidence.

A DVLA spokesman said: "We work closely with the medical profession and other organisations to raise awareness of how medical conditions can affect fitness to drive, and publish information on GOV.UK and across our social media channels.

"All drivers are required by law to meet the appropriate medical standards at all times while driving and must notify DVLA of the onset or worsening of a medical condition that could affect this.

"Anyone in doubt about a medical condition that could affect their fitness to drive should speak to their GP or a medical professional involved in treating their condition."

Motorists who fail to declare a medical condition that can impact their driving face a £1,000 fine if it is found to have contributed to a crash.

Kent Police superintendent Simon Thompson said it was up to drivers to make sure they are fit enough to get behind the wheel.

"Motorists must take personal responsibility for ensuring they are fit to drive so they do not put themselves and other road-users at risk," he said.

"Officers can and will take action if they believe somebody should not be behind the wheel of a vehicle, such as by reporting them to the DVLA for consideration of having their driving licence revoked."

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