Shift workers, fatigued driving and the impact on road safety: An investigation involving police service employees

Research Institution / Organisation

University of Leeds

In Collaboration With

West Yorkshire Police

Principal Researcher

Yvonne Taylor

Level of Research


Project Start Date

September 2011

Research Context

Rest and sleep are fundamental to the physical and mental wellbeing of humans.  When this is reduced, so too is our ability to function normally and carry out tasks efficiently and safely.  Shift work and fatigue have been shown to interfere with sleep and impair cognitive function, therefore a fatigued person is less alert, less able to process information and has slower reaction times.  Following around 24 hours of sleep deprivation, alertness shows a marked decline and performance impairment is in line with that of a blood alcohol concentration of around 0.1, with the current drink drive limit in England and Wales currently set at 0.08 blood alcohol content. 

Research Methodology

Fatigue can affect any driver, but those who drive as part of their job, or those who are shift workers are more at risk. Despite there being a marked increase in the numbers of road deaths amongst serving police officers in the UK in recent years, to date, research into Police officers and Police staff working shifts within the Policing organisation has been rare.
Shift patterns are an integral part of how policing is delivered and the welfare of officers and staff needs to be carefully balanced with the requirements of the organisation.  Police forces not only have a duty of care to the public, they also have a duty of care to provide safe working practices for their officers and staff.  This includes patterns of work and rest, in order to minimise the adverse effects of shift work.  

The current research is using both qualitative and quantitative methods in order to explore driver fatigue amongst police service shift workers and to identify where problems manifest themselves in the forward rotating shift pattern, currently followed by many of the UK Police Forces.

Interim reports and publications

Date due for completion

August 2020
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