Tag Archives: drowsy driving


Drowsy Driving Prevention Week®, November 12 through 18th, is a National Sleep Foundation public awareness campaign to educate drivers about sleep safety.  The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety released a study showing that the tragedy of drowsy driving is more pervasive than shown in previous estimates. Their study shows that drowsy driving involves:

  •          About one in six deadly crashes;
  •          One in eight crashes resulting in occupant hospitalization,
  •          One in fourteen crashes in which a vehicle was towed.
  •          These percentages are substantially higher than most previous estimates, suggesting that the contribution of drowsy driving to motor vehicle crashes, injuries, and deaths has not been fully appreciated.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that drowsy driving results in 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries and more than 100,000 accidents each year. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety analysis of the accidents resulting from drivers falling asleep behind the wheels is cause for alarm and concern. According to the study, younger drivers age 16-24 were nearly twice as likely to be involved in a drowsy driving crash as drivers age 40-59, and about 57 percent of drowsy driving crashes involved the driver drifting into other lanes or even off the road.

The study also found that –

  • Vehicles in which the driver was accompanied by a passenger were nearly 50 percent less likely to be involved in a drowsy driving related crash.
  • More than half (55%) of those drivers who reported having fallen asleep while driving in the past year said that it occurred on a high-speed divided highway.
  • More than half (59%) of those drivers who reported having fallen asleep while driving in the past year said they had been driving for less than an hour before falling asleep; only one in five reported they had been driving for three hours or longer.
  • More than one in four drivers (26%) who reported having fallen asleep while driving in the past year reported that it had occurred between noon and 5 p.m.
  • Men (52%) were much more likely than women (30%) to report having ever fallen asleep while driving; men (14%) were also more likely than women (8%) to admit having done so in the past year.
  • Drivers age 24 and younger were most likely to report having fallen asleep in the past year, but they were least likely to report having ever fallen asleep. This is consistent with other studies that have found younger drivers to have a higher risk of falling asleep at the wheel.

According to the Foundation’s 2009 Sleep in America poll, about one-third (28%) of Americans admitted that they have fallen asleep behind the wheel within the past year, and more than half (54%) said they have driven while drowsy. The following warning signs indicate that it’s time to stop driving and find a safe place to pull over and address your condition:

  • Difficulty focusing, frequent blinking and/or heavy eyelids
  • Difficulty keeping daydreams at bay
  • Trouble keeping your head up
  • Drifting from your lane, swerving, tailgating and/or hitting rumble strips
  • Inability to clearly remember the last few miles driven
  • Missing exits or traffic signs
  • Yawning repeatedly
  • Feeling restless, irritable, or aggressive.

Sleepiness can impair drivers by causing slower reaction times, vision impairment, slips in judgment and delays in processing information. In fact, studies show that being awake for more than 20 hours results in an impairment equal to a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08%, the legal limit in all states. It is also possible to fall into a 3-4 second microsleep without realizing it.  Here’s how to prevent a fall-asleep crash:

  • Get a good night’s sleep before you hit the road. You’ll want to be alert for the drive, so be sure to get adequate sleep (seven to nine hours) the night before you go.
  • Don’t be too rushed to arrive at your destination. Many drivers try to maximize the holiday weekend by driving at night or without stopping for breaks.
  • It’s better to allow the time to drive alert and arrive alive.
  • Use the buddy system. Just as you should not swim alone, avoid driving alone for long distances. A buddy who remains awake for the journey can take a turn behind the wheel and help identify the warning signs of fatigue.
  • Take a break every 100 miles or 2 hours. Do something to refresh yourself like getting a snack, switching drivers, or going for a run.
  • Take a nap—find a safe place to take a 15 to 20-minute nap, if you think you might fall asleep. Be cautious about excessive drowsiness after waking up.
  • Avoid alcohol and medications that cause drowsiness as a side-effect.
  • Avoid driving at times when you would normally be asleep.
  • Consume caffeine. The equivalent of two cups of coffee can increase alertness for several hours.

Here’s another unsettling fact: National Sleep Foundation’s 2012 Sleep in America Poll Finds sleepy pilots, train operators as well as bus, taxi, and limo drivers.  The people we trust to take us or our loved ones from place to place struggle with sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation’s (NSF) 2012 Sleep in America® poll.  It is the first poll to ask transportation professionals, including pilots, train operators, truck, bus, taxi and limo drivers about their sleep habits and work performance. Pilots and train operators are most likely to report sleep-related job performance and safety problems. 

So, people, let’s get those zzzzz’s, rest and recoup before you take to the roads, rails, or sky!



Source: National Sleep Foundation



Estimates are that around 100,000 police-reported road crashes each year are caused by driver drowsiness and fatigue, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  Drowsiness is as dangerous to driving as falling asleep at the wheel.  When drivers are tired and have stared at the little white line in the middle of the road too long, it causes a trance-like state.  Road trance can result in slow perceptions and reaction times, and can leave drivers unable to remember how they even got to their destinations.  Most drivers have probably experienced this driving fatigue at one time or another.  Some of the basic causes of fatigue are lack of sleep, poor diet, being overweight, lack of exercise, and drinking alcohol.  If you are planning a long road trip, or drive for a living, you should take an active part in prevention when it comes to driving in a tired or distracted state. 

Truck Driver Fatigue 

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety report that each year truck crashes kill over 5,000 people and injure almost 150,000 more on our nation’s roads and highways.  Large trucks are involved in multiple-vehicle fatal crashes at twice the rate of passenger vehicles.  Almost 800 large truck occupants, almost all of them drivers, die each year in these crashes.  Commercial drivers become fatigued from excessive daily and weekly work hours.  The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reports that more than 750 people die and 20,000 more are injured each year due directly to fatigued commercial vehicle drivers.  Drivers are limited to a certain amount of continuous driving; however, many times they are loading and unloading their cargo, which adds to their hours of work.  A proposed safety rule is that long-haul and regional drivers are required to use tamper-proof devices such as Electric On-Board Recorders, which monitor actual daily and weekly driving time. 

Symptoms of Driver Fatigue and Road Trance:

  • Eyes burning;
  • Heavy eyelids;
  • Muscles twitching;
  • Inability to focus eyes;
  • Yawning;
  • Wandering thoughts and disconnections;
  • Limbs feeling heavy, or numb, light and tingly;
  • Shallow breating. 

Recommendations to Help Prevent Driver Fatigue and Road Trance:

  • Regular exercise;
  • Eat a balanced, healthy diet;
  • Start your trip as early in the day as possible;
  • Don’t eat a heavy meal before driving;
  • Avoid driving alone whenever possible;
  • Keep driver’s area cool and well-ventilated;
  • Talk to passengers without being distracted;
  • Be alert for road and traffic signs;
  • Take breaks every two hours or 100 miles; (may be difficult for long-haul drivers.)
  • On break, get out of vehicle and walk or stretch.
  • Avoid alcohol and any medications that could cause drowsiness.
  • If it is necessary, stop and take a 20-minute nap; sleeping longer will make you feel groggy. 

These suggestions from the Texas Department of Insurance, Division of Workers’ Compensation, may help avoid accidents that often result from driver fatigue and road trance.  An alert driver is a safe driver.  Remember to practice safety at all times. Don’t learn it by accident!