Hamilton woman 'sleep drives' to Mt Maunganui

A sleeping driver who managed to drive from the Waikato to Mt Maunganui via Auckland has alarmed police.

Hamilton Police shift manager, Senior Sergeant Dave Litton, said a concerned friend called 111 call shortly after midnight to say a woman had taken sleeping pills and had driven away from her Hamilton home.

The woman's friend said the driver had a sleeping disorder and had previously driven off while asleep 10 months ago and ended up in Tauranga.

Police were unsure about her level of consciousness throughout the trip but she was found slumped over the wheel at 4.55am at her former home in Mt Maunganui, with no recollection of the night's events.

The bizarre drama has prompted a warning for drivers with medical conditions to be honest and open with their doctors and to adhere to restrictions of any prescriptions.

Litton said the woman was said to have a fondness for the beach so after getting the call they sent patrol cars to check the route to Raglan while the Northern Communications Centre advised police to look out for her silver Toyota hatchback.

The driver's cellphone was on and Litton said she was texting as she drove, but those receiving her messages believed she was half asleep.

Her phone polled in Otara in South Auckland about 2am but the vehicle had gone when police arrived.

The next message said she was heading for the Coromandel.

"While this was going on police were scanning any reports of unusual or concerning driving as we attempted to find the Toyota and prevent a potential tragedy," Litton said.

He said the woman's phone polled at Te Puna near Tauranga at about 3.45am before her car was found up a driveway at her former address in Mt Maunganui about 4.55am.

"The woman's cousin found her, asleep, slumped over the wheel," Litton said.

"When woken she had absolutely no recollection of the events overnight and we have sought an urgent order forbidding her to drive and to seek medical advice on her suitability to remain holding her drivers licence.

"While her being found safe and well is a relief for everyone involved, the potential for tragedy was huge and we're urging people suffering medical conditions to be open and honest with their doctors and seek advice on if the medication they are prescribed affects their ability to drive or not."

Litton also urged people on such medications to be frank with loved ones and friends so steps could be taken to ensure they didn't put themselves or those dearest to them at risk.