Drowsy Driving

Did You Know?
According to sleepfoundation.org, 100,000 crashes each year are caused by fatigued drivers.
55% of drowsy driving crashes are caused by drivers under 25 years old.
Being awake for 18 hours is equal to a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08%, which is legally drunk and leaves you at equal risk of crash.

How can you tell if you are “driving while drowsy”?
Here are some signs to stop and rest:

  • Difficulty focusing, frequent blinking, or heavy eyelids
  • Daydreaming; wandering/disconnected thoughts
  • Trouble remembering the last few miles driven; missing exits or traffic signs
  • Yawning repeatedly or rubbing your eyes
  • Trouble keeping your head up
  • Drifting from your lane, tailgating, or hitting a shoulder rumble strip
  • Feeling restless and irritable

Are you at risk?
Before you drive, check to see if you are:

  • Sleep-deprived or fatigued (6 hours of sleep or less triples your risk)
  • Suffering from sleep loss (insomnia), poor quality sleep, or sleep dept
  • Driving long distances without proper rest breaks
  • Driving through the night, mid-afternoon or when you would normally be asleep
  • Taking sedating medications (antidepressants, cold tablets, antihistamines)
  • Working more than 60 hours a week (increases your risk by 40%)
  • Working more than one job and your main job involves shift work
  • Drinking even small amounts of  alcohol
  • Driving alone or on a long, rural, dark or boring road

Specific At-Risk Groups

The risk of a crash due to drowsy driving is not uniformly distributed across the population. Research has identified some groups as being at increased risk:

  • Young people - especially males under 25 years old.
  • Shift workers and people with long work hours - Working the night shift increases your risk by nearly six times. Rotating-shift workers and people working more than 60 hours a week need to be particularly careful.
  • Commercial drivers - especially long-haul drivers. At least 15% of truck crashes involve fatigue.
  • People with undiagnosed or untreated disorders - obstructive apnea sufferers have up to seven times the increased risk of falling asleep at the wheel.
  • Business travelers - spend many hours driving or may be jet-lagged.


Before hitting the road:

  • Get adequate sleep - most adults need 7-9 hours to remain alert during the day.
  • Schedule proper breaks - every 100 mi.s or 2 hr.s during long trips.
  • Arrange for a travel companion - to talk with and share the driving.
  • Avoid alcohol and sedating medications - check your labels or ask your doctor.

To prevent a fall-asleep crash while driving:

  • Watch for the warning signs of fatigue - see above.
  • Stop driving - pull off at the next exit or find a place to sleep for the night.
  • Take a nap - find a safe place to take a 15-20 minute nap.
  • Consume the equivalent of 2 cups of coffee. Caffeine is available in various forms (eg. soft drinks, energy drinks, tea, gum) and amounts-it takes about 30 min.s to enter the blood stream and will not greatly affect those who regularly consume it.