22% of drivers said they got used to sleeping on the road (FILE PIC) (Image: ViktorCap / Getty Images)
Fatigue was the cause of 62 fatal road accidents and more than 1,500 RTAs on UK roads in 2018, according to the latest Department of Transport records. But although the official figure is 2%, the DVLA estimates that 20% of accidents on highways and monotonous roads can be caused by the driver napping at the wheel. And a new survey by Volkswagen revealed the alarming number of drivers who had problems on the road while tired and driving at night.
More than a fifth (22%) of drivers said they got used to sleeping on the road – with 3.7% admitting that they fell asleep at the wheel.
A quarter said they lost their concentration in the dark, causing them to deviate from the track they were on.
And eight percent said that they often feel uncomfortable driving at night because they are concerned about falling asleep.
Volkswagen conducted the research to highlight the high-tech safety features in its Touareg SUV, which has a function designed to wake a driver if he falls asleep.
The car's optional Emergency Assistance detects when a driver is not focused on the road, possibly because he fell asleep or suffered a medical episode.
If, after a short period of time, the sensors do not detect driving, braking or acceleration activity by the driver, the system will activate several stages of climbing.
Initially, the system attempts to wake the driver by pressing the brakes and warns other drivers of the potential danger, by turning on the hazard lights while weaving left and right within the lane, before a controlled stop is automatically initiated.
Brian Luckie, Volkswagen product manager for the UK, said: "Government figures show the risks of driving at night, whether from fatigue and drowsiness down dark roads, with pedestrians and animals lurking on the banks and sidewalks with no lighting.
Fatigue was the cause of 62 fatal road accidents (FILE PIC) (Image: metamorworks / Getty Images)
"Our research also showed how many drivers found themselves napping or had near misses while driving at night.
"Safety is paramount at Volkswagen and the Touareg has a number of impressive technological innovations that can transform drivers' experience at night."
Some 63,000 people have been killed or seriously injured on the road between 8 pm and 6 am in the past 10 years, according to Department of Transport statistics.
The OnePoll survey for Volkswagen revealed that 23% of UK drivers judged the distance between themselves and another car dangerously due to poor lighting.
And a fifth had almost an accident because conditions were not clear at night, while 43% of drivers drove on the road because a person or animal they had not seen had moved to the road.
To make the road safer at night, the Touareg, which has a full five-star EuroNCAP safety rating, is available with Night Vision Assist, which detects infrared rays emitted by people and animals up to 130 meters away.
Drivers are informed about wildlife and pedestrians by a thermal imaging camera.
The system uses the panel screen to show a black and white image created by the night vision system and the camera marks the streaks in amber or red, depending on the risk they pose.
When a risk is detected, the car's brakes are applied to optimize braking in case the driver needs to make an emergency stop.
The new Volkswagen Touareg Black Edition is also equipped with state-of-the-art LED matrix headlights.
Each headlamp contains 128 LEDs that constantly adapt to driving conditions to avoid dazzling other road users.
For example, when they detect that the road is wet, they reduce the intensity of the beam directed to the surface, reducing reflective glare and helping to make the view clearer.
The LED array allows the car to maintain the maximum beam at night, even with oncoming traffic, as this sophisticated technology allows a small part of the beam to be immersed specifically, corresponding to the location of the approaching vehicle.
These "IQ lights", which are optional for the rest of the Touareg range, also use navigation and GPS data to read the road ahead, lighting the corner before the car arrives.
3.7% of drivers admitted to falling asleep at the wheel (Image: Motortion / Getty Images)
This smart feature happens proactively and regardless of the steering angle.
It is based on images from the front camera and route data from the navigation system, allowing the turn to be lit up potentially two seconds earlier compared to a vehicle without this technology.
The system can also recognize whether the vehicle is off-road, in the city or on a highway, and then adapt the lighting to suit.
In addition, it can reduce the brightness of traffic signs.
When combined with Night Vision Assist, the headlights can flash a beam of light on a pedestrian to warn them of the vehicle and further highlight a potential risk for the driver.
Brian Luckie added: "As the flagship of our line, the Touareg is versatile, combining the luxury of an executive car, the ability of an off-road SUV, the practicality of family ownership and also a showcase for the latest security and technology innovations.
"Features like LED matrix headlights and night vision made their debut at Volkswagen in the Touareg, with many of these advanced features that will appear in other cars in the range in the future."