Being tired at the wheel – should it be a criminal offence?


31 May 2023

By Elizabeth Bradshaw

There is a study currently being carried out in Britain by Australia’s equivalent to the Department of Transport.  The study is investigating if tests can be sufficiently accurate regarding ‘tiredness’ to lead to being prosecuted.  One of the researchers involved has stated that they believe, with the right investment involved, then biomarker based tests could be used.  The suggestion is that at the hospital a blood test could be taken to also look for alcohol and drug levels.

Statistics suggest that almost one fifth of the accidents on a UK motorway may be caused by falling asleep at the wheel, with 18 to 30 year old males being the main culprits.  But it has been made clear that there are no plans at present to introduce such within Britain.

Potentially this issue is covered by law already in place with careless and dangerous driving offences. Laws cover driving below the standard of a ‘reasonably competent driver’ and far below that standard respectively which would potentially cover circumstances of significant lack of sleep as well as other factors.  The penalties involved for those offences differ widely with careless driving carrying a maximum penalty of an unlimited fine, whilst dangerous driving in comparison carries a 2 years custodial sentence as a maximum and is triable either way.  There are also the offences of causing death by careless or dangerous driving for which you can be given a custodial sentence.  Bearing this in mind, it is hard to see there being further legislation to include such ‘tiredness tests’ in the near future, although it is interesting to see the evolution of new tests and medial advancements that are said to be able to test this accurately.

Gepp Solicitors are highly experienced criminal defence lawyers in Essex and experts in all types of motoring offences. With our skilled advocacy, we can ensure your interests are protected right from the outset so you can achieve the best possible outcome for your circumstances. We have a particularly strong track record of helping clients to retain their driving licences under even the most challenging circumstances.  If you are contacted for an interview or court on any driving matters please do not hesitate to contact us on or 01245 493939.