30% of Ontario dads report nodding off behind wheel

Angus Reid polled 1,003 parents online and found that 30 per cent of men who take family road trips have nodded off behind the wheel compared with 14 per cent of women.

Angus Reid poll finds men fall asleep more often than women while driving

Nearly one-quarter of men surveyed said they had swerved while driving because of fatigue. (Courtesy of Motoring UK)

One-third of Ontario fathers surveyed admit to dozing off behind the wheel.

Angus Reid polled 1,003 parents online from June 19-23 and found that 30 per cent of men who take family road trips have nodded off behind the wheel, compared with 14 per cent of women.

According to the poll, nearly one-quarter of men have swerved because they were tired, and almost one-third said they worried about getting their family into an accident because they were tired while driving.

"The stats are scary, because you’re only in control of your own vehicle," said Susan St. Louis of Windsor, Ont.

St. Louis said she often takes two days to get to Florida with her husband. She said they're never in a rush and often stop to nap.

"There’s no reason for it," she said of driving when you’re overtired. "You notice when your eyes are getting heavy and I think you should just pull over."

Coffee not a solution

The survey also found that 64 per cent of fathers said they would drink a coffee or eat something and keep on going if they felt tired while driving.

St. Louis said a coffee and a 10-minute break don’t cut it.

"I’d rather get there alive," she said.

Not everyone arrives safe and sound.

Margaret Nickerson of Saint John got a scare when her nephew dozed off while on a business trip.

He was carrying glass product 200 kilometres in his car when he fell asleep and crashed into a ditch. The glass broke and compounded injuries he sustained in the crash.

"He’s fine today, but it scared us," Nickerson said.

Nickerson also knows of a local doctor who died when he crashed after falling asleep at the wheel.

"It was quite a traumatic thing for the city and people who knew him," she said.

Nickerson said the results from the survey are particularly dismaying because all of the respondents had children under the age of 12.

"If you have children in the car, it’s not just you, it’s precious cargo," Nickerson said.

Elsie Galbraith, a trauma co-ordinator at Hôtel-Dieu Grace Hospital in Windsor, Ont., said drowsy driving is the cause of many crashes in the Windsor-Essex region.

Galbraith said it's a fallacy that a cup of coffee, loud music or open windows will keep you awake. None of those work when a person is overtired, she said. Galbraith said a nap, even if it's just 20 minutes, will help.

Driver's needs overlooked as families prepare

The survey was conducted on behalf of Insurance Hunter, an online insurance quotes provider.

"As soon as families set off on their trip, they seem to forget about the driver," said Gail Robertson, road safety ambassador for Insurance Hunter.

Despite the high incidence of driver fatigue reported, the survey suggests that parents have the best intentions at heart for both the kids and the driver. They are also well-prepared when they set off on their trip.

According to the results:

  • 94 per cent of parents say it is important to pack enough snacks for the kids.
  • 91 per cent make sure the driver is well-rested and has plenty of planned breaks before setting off.
  • 90 per cent plan sufficient and regular stops for the kids.
  • 89 per cent stock the car full of entertainment to keep the kids busy.
  • 84 per cent say they ensure there is enough food and drink for the driver.
  • 75 per cent set off on their road trips at smart travel times, between 6 a.m. and noon.

"Our survey shows the vast majority take the driver's needs into consideration in the planning and preparation stage, but not while driving — the most important stage of a road trip," Robertson said. "Although today's parents put their kids' needs first, the driver's needs must become the priority if families are to arrive safely at their destination."