Norwich Union warns fleet managers to check drivers' health

Article date: 16 July 2007

Sleepy drivers are as dangerous as drink drivers and up to 86% of motorists claim they drive tired or "nod off" whilst driving, according to Norwich Union.*

Bill Pownall, motor risk manager for Norwich Union, explains: "Although fatigue and tiredness are both factors in driver safety, it is important to differentiate these signs from excessive sleepiness including the symptoms of irritability or restlessness - which could be due to the medical condition, known as Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA).

"Where in recent incidents we have seen fleet drivers exceeding their hours or simply ignoring the symptoms of being tired, fleet managers need to be vigilant when it comes to vetting the driver's health conditions and take notice if a driver complains of tiredness.

"Up to 27% of drivers with OSA have had a motor vehicle accident due to falling asleep at the wheel and, alarmingly, most sufferers of OSA do not realise they even have the condition.**

"Fleet managers can identify OSA through detecting its hallmark symptoms, which include excessive daytime sleepiness or, in extreme circumstances, falling asleep during the day. In any event, fleet managers should be discouraging drivers from driving when sleepy or tired."

Drivers are able to refer to a variety of sources of information, such as the web or health booklets available in pharmacies, to help self-diagnosis. Symptoms to watch out for include: restless sleep; loud snoring with periods of silence followed by gasps; morning headaches, trouble concentrating due to lack of restful sleep; irritability; forgetfulness; mood or behaviour changes due to poor sleep patterns over long periods.

"Whilst the symptoms are persistent, avoiding driving altogether will reduce the risk of road accidents.

"It is the responsibility of the fleet manager to assess the safety of the driver's ability to drive on a day-to-day basis. It is equally important that the individual is aware of the risks involved whilst driving tired and acts responsibly by declaring they are suffering from symptoms and visit their GP, as there is a variety of treatments available." **


For further information, please contact:
Sam Bramwell at Staniforth on 0161 919 8024/ 077381 96667 or Sally Leeman at Norwich Union press office on 01603 684225/ 07800 699670.

Notes to editors:

* Source: RAC report on motoring 2007.
**Source: OSA online  - supported by the Transport Safety Group, Respironics 2004.

Norwich Union is the UK's largest general insurer with a market share of around 15%, with a focus on insurance for individuals and small businesses.

It is a leading provider of life, pensions and investment products and one of the largest financial adviser (FA) providers. FAs provide over 70% of the company's long-term savings business in the UK.

Norwich Union's news releases and a selection of images are available from Aviva's internet press centre at

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