The Dangers of Drowsy Driving

Sleepy fatigued driver, driving car, isolated city traffic

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration over 83,000 vehicle crashes and 1,000 fatalities a year are due to drowsy driving.  Many people recognize that drowsy driving is underreported as a main cause of car crashes. Sleepiness can increase the risk of auto crashes because it impairs performance and can ultimately lead to the inability to resist falling asleep at the wheel.  Some of the main aspects of driving impairment related to being drowsy is reaction time, vigilance, attention and information processing.

The following characteristics are typical for drowsy driving related crashes:

  • If the crash occurs during late night, early morning or mid-afternoon
  • The crash is likely to be serious
  • A single vehicle leaves the roadway
  • The crash occurs on a high-speed road
  • The driver does not attempt to avoid the crash
  • The driver is alone in the vehicle

Although drowsy driving can affect anyone, there are a few population groups who are at a higher risk based on crash reports and self-reports of sleep behavior and driving performance.  One of those groups includes young people between the ages of 16-29, especially males.  A second group is shift workers whose sleep is disrupted by working at night, working long hours or irregular hours.  The final group is people with untreated sleep apnea syndrome (SAS) or narcolepsy.

To prevent drowsy driving, we suggest getting sufficient sleep before you plan to drive to a destination.  Avoid alcohol if you are sleepy because it can increase the risk of an accident and if above 0.08% BAC then it is illegal.  Limit the amount of driving you do between midnight and 6am.  If you are already driving and began to feel sleepy, let another passenger drive or stop and pull over to rest before continuing a trip.