Drowsy Driving

Image of Distract Driving - driving women yawning while holding a coffee cup

Drowsy driving is a serious traffic safety concern that puts all roadway users at risk and can lead to tragic consequences.

Facts

  • According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 795 people were killed in drowsy-driving related crashes in 2017.
  • Fatalities involving a drowsy driver accounted for 2 percent of all traffic deaths in 2016.
  • According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study, 1 in 25 drivers surveyed reported that they had fallen asleep while driving in the past 30 days.
  • According to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), 10 to 20 percent of large truck or bus crashes involved a tired driver.

Signs of Driver Fatigue

  • Yawning or blinking frequently
  • Wandering or disconnected thoughts (daydreaming)
  • Difficulty remembering the past few miles driven
  • Missing an exit
  • Drifting from lane or hitting a rumble strip

 Drivers at Most Risk

  • Commercial drivers (large trucks, tow trucks, tractor trailers or buses) who travel long distances and often at night.
  • Graveyard shift workers and employees on rotating or long shifts.
  • Young drivers (more than 50 percent of drowsy driving crashes involved drivers under the age of 25).
  • People with untreated sleep disorders.

Preventing Driver Sleepiness

  • Get enough sleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7 to 9 hours for adults.
  • Stick to a consistent sleep schedule.
  • Avoid driving alone. Drowsy driving crashes often involve drivers traveling alone.
  • Take a break every two hours or 100 miles.
  • Avoid alcohol or taking medications that can make you sleepy. Don’t drive after taking medications with a “may cause drowsiness” or other driving/operating machinery warning label.
  • If you are feeling sleepy, pull over to a safe place like a highway rest area and take a 15-20-minute nap. Turning up the radio or rolling down the windows are not effective ways to stay alert.
  • Drinking caffeinated beverages is not a long-term fix to staying awake. The effects are short-lived, and you might not be as alert as you think you are.
  • If you have symptoms of a sleep disorder, such as snoring or feeling sleepy during the day, talk to your doctor about treatment options.

Drowsy Driving Similar to Drunk Driving

Studies have shown that going too long without sleep can impair your ability to drive the same way as drinking too much alcohol.

For example, being awake for 24 hours is like having a blood content (BAC) of .10%, which is above the 08% legal limit.

Resources

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