Driver fatigue is the silent killer in disguise.

It creeps up gradually on unsuspecting drivers with all too often serious consequences, says the TTC Group, a road safety education organisation urging public sector chief executives to take action to combat the danger.

Tired drivers are responsible for a quarter of all crashes causing death or serious injury on British main roads.

Four out of ten of these collisions involve someone driving a commercial vehicle, said Adrian Hide, Senior Consultant for TTC DriverProtect , part of the TTC Group, which helps organisations with fleet driver risk management and compliance.

Unrealistic work schedules put pressure on employees who then drive too fast or for longer than they should, putting themselves and others at risk, he warned.

The Highway Code states that a 15 minute break should be taken after every two hours of driving.

“This advice is there for a good reason. Driving is stressful at the very best of times and saps a person’s ability to concentrate. Add excessively long journeys and a lack of breaks to the mix and you have a recipe for disaster,” said Adrian.

Fatigue causes a motorist or truck driver to blink their eyes for longer than normal.

A quick blink usually takes 300 to 400 milliseconds but once fatigue sets in, a “driver’s blink” gets progressively longer with the danger of a “micro sleep” rendering the driver unresponsive and unconscious for anytime between a fraction of a second or up to 30 seconds.

“Imagine this happening while travelling along a motorway at 70mph moving at 35 metres per second. In just 30 seconds a vehicle would cover a staggering 1,050 metres – over half a mile.

“A catastrophic event would probably happen long before the vehicle travelled this far.”

Tell tale signs that police use to prove the driver fell asleep at the wheel are a lack of skid marks.

The  , which educates 330,000 drivers annually and manages work related road safety to reduce casualties on our roads, is calling for working practices in both the public and private sector to change.

“Organisations can’t afford to turn a blind eye particularly given the recent changes to the sentencing guidelines seeing fines based on annual turnover, or in the case of a fatality, custodial sentences being imposed.

“We need a change of culture and mindset. Health and safety managers are well aware about the problem of driver fatigue and other road safety issues but often don’t have the power to influence change.

“But chief executives do and we urge them to do so now.”

*Our advice article appeared in Driverlink Magazine’s first issue of 2017 for NHS drivers.