Remember To Rest When Driving Long Distances

Remember To Rest When Driving Long Distances

Posted on June 21, 2016 by

Road sign for servicesNow that the summer is officially here (even if the weather has not caught up quite yet!), many of you are bound to be setting of on holiday in the near future, driving into the distance with your home comforts safely loaded into your caravan or motorhome. Those of us who tow caravans will be more than aware of the need to make sure everything is properly loaded, hitched and triple-checked before setting off, but do you remember to look after yourself during the journey too? Tiredness and fatigue are major contributors to road accidents, and near misses, but are easily avoided. Taking regular rest stops won’t only make you more comfortable when driving and towing over long distances, it will also go a long way towards reducing your chances of being involved in, or causing, an accident.

According to the government’s THINK! campaign, fatigue and tiredness can be cited as the cause of approximately 20% of all road accidents. Not only that, sleep-related accidents tend to be more likely to result in serious injury to one or more parties involved, or even fatalities. If you’re male and under 30, you may not be too happy to learn that, statistically, you fall into the category most likely to be involved in a sleep or tiredness-related collision.

THINK! official driving advice

The official guidelines provided by the THINK! campaign may seem to be obvious and simply common sense, but the fact remains that complying with them while driving is likely to drastically reduce the risk of an accident. The guidelines are as follows:

  • When planning your journey, factor in a 15-minute rest stop every two hours
  • If you are already tired, don’t set off on your journey. Delay your start temporarily until you have had a chance to rest.
  • If you have to get up particularly early to embark on a long journey, bear in mind that the early hours of the morning are one of the peak times for accidents (along with just after lunch) and ensure you are appropriately vigilant
  • Don’t drive during the night when you would normally be sleeping. Even if you have slept at another time instead, you will be sleepy during the hours of around 12pm to 6am. If it is at all possible, stick to your usual waking hours for driving, particularly when long distances are involved.
  • In between scheduled stops on route to your destination, be aware of how you are feeling. If you notice tiredness or a lack of concentration, pull over at the next services and have a rest and a coffee or other caffeinated drink. Allow approximately 15 minutes to pass before resuming your drive – this is how long it will take for the caffeine to kick in and boost your alertness.
  • In addition to the above, don’t forget that caffeine and short rest breaks will only go so far in preventing tiredness – there is no substitute for a good night’s sleep. Prior to your planned journey, and your trip home, do your absolute best to get enough sleep. It is recommended that adults aim for around eight hours’ sleep per night.
  • Share the driving with another adult wherever possible. As well as meaning you have more opportunity to rest, the break from driving will also allow you to avoid boredom-related loss of concentration.

While we do occasionally hear about drivers “unexpectedly” falling asleep at the wheel, it is very rare for people to reach this stage without feeling noticeably tired, with the exception of tiredness caused by health conditions. If you do have a medical condition which could affect your alertness, you must notify the DVLA immediately.

Don’t forget that a number of service stations have rest areas for caravans and motorhomes and some allow overnight stops. If your trip does involve motorways, have a look at our previous article that lists the overnight stop areas.

Road at nightIf you are travelling overseas, there are also a number of caravan sites close to the ports that regularly welcome people before they catch their ferry.  This is especially useful if you have an early one to catch!  Some of the ports that have convenient sites are listed below and some you may wish to stay at for more than one night –

If you have any suggestions for places to stay near ports, please let us know in the comments below.


Terry Picken. 3rd July 2016

as an ex hgv driver, for them the law states, a 45min break after 4 hours, this is equivalent to traveling, 240 miles max, I for one, try to have 30 mins, every 2-3 hours depending on time of day, and traffic conditions, if you hit slow moving traffic, take a break, as you will use extra fuel, on stop start trips, and also get frustrated, I did an overnight drive, from Nottingham to Deal, stopping 3 times, and arriving 2 hrs before sailing, and had booked a bunk on board the ferry, which I used after breakfast, after disembarking there was a further 3 hour drive on the motorway to Normandy, and arriving pretty fresh, with just on stop on the way, for food and drink. I find a drink and Coffee is always best, as this extends the break, and always investigate the services, it sharpens your wits, for the next leg, we had no kids with us, but have out grown them, and remember the are we there yets, and I want a wee, and that is when traveling at night has its advantages, as long as the driver gets at least 3 hours sleep before you leave. and have some low playing radio on, the kids sleep , and your fresh, have a great holiday, and keep safe.


    Sandra Hamilton 4th July 2016

    Hi Terry,

    Many thanks for your comment – some excellent advice.


Ben FALAT 13th August 2016

In UK while the official advice is that, “…. tiredness can kill …”, we have the ‘bonkers’ and conflicting situation of either lay-byes being immediately adjacent to main carriageways where it’s almost impossible to sleep (and dangerous!), or there’s a 2-hour waiting limit at Services with the threat of Clamping if exceeded. I seriously worry about our lorry drivers for whom there appear to be insufficient opportunities; i’ve tried sleeping in a British roadside lay-bye and after repeated severe shaking by the pressure-wave of other passing traffic I gave up !
** I have corresponded with my local MP on this, with no satisfactory solution.

Conversely on the Continent there are marvellous series of ‘Aires’ stopping points; these are either off-road parking points with toilets/showers or may be full ‘services’. There’s no time limit on stopping and while they almost invariably become quite choked overnight with lorries which will use caravan spaces as well, there’s usually room for cars to squeeze in (though do try to choose NOT to park next to a ‘refrigerated’ lorry which will keep you well-awake !).
Some of the very best Continental lay-byes even have full caravan facilities with flushing of grey tanks available straight through grids set into the parking-spot surface (drive over, flush-out, drive off and park for the night, taking a full restaurant meal as well if desired !).