The Dangers of Driving While Drowsy
Drowsy Driving to Blame for Over 20 Percent of Fatal Car Crashes
Written By: Sarah Johnson, Tuck Sleep Foundation 3/13/18
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Most people understand that drunk driving is dangerous and should always be avoided. But the same is not true for drowsy driving, which is arguably just as dangerous as driving drunk.
Drivers who are sleep deprived are impaired, just as drunk drivers are. According to the CDC, drowsy driving affects the ability to drive safely, including:
- Difficulty focusing or paying attention to the road
- Slower reaction times, such as when braking or steering suddenly
- Impaired ability to make good decisions
These driver impairments are dangerous even if drivers stay awake. Of course, falling asleep at the wheel is a particularly dangerous consequence of drowsy driving.
Drowsy Driving Causes Thousands of Crashes Annually
Research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety indicates that 21 percent of fatal crashes involve tired drivers. That’s approximately one in five fatal crashes.
There are injuries in one third of crashes involving a fatigued driver. In more than 6,000 drowsy driving crashes each year, there is at least one death.
Who is Driving While Drowsy?
The danger of drowsy driving is often underestimated, with many drivers believing that they are able to stay awake and alert even when that’s not the case. Young drivers are especially at risk of overestimating their abilities, with more drivers among the ages of 19 to 24 admitting to driving drowsy than any other age group.
Other driver groups at a higher risk of drowsy driving include:
- Drivers who are sleep deprived
- Drivers who take medications that may cause drowsiness
- Drivers with untreated sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea or insomnia
- Commercial drivers, including truck drivers, bus drivers, and tow truck drivers
- Shift workers, such as those who work the night shift or long shifts
How to Combat the Dangers of Drowsy Driving
Although drowsy driving is a problem that’s far too common and underestimated, drivers can take steps to avoid drowsy driving and recover from drowsy driving accidents.
- Be vigilant when driving during peak drowsy driving hours. Drowsy driving accidents happen most often between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m. While you should always be on the alert for unsafe drivers, it’s especially important to be critical of other drivers late at night, avoiding those who show signs of drowsy or drunk driving such as driving exceptionally slow or drifting in and out of their lane.
- Don’t become a drowsy driver. Drowsy driving can happen to any driver at any time of day, especially if you’ve had a sleepless night or are coming home from a long night out. Be honest with yourself about your level of fatigue, and get enough rest by making sleep a priority and practicing good sleep hygiene in a comfortable sleep environment.
- Seek help if you’ve been injured by a drowsy driver. Drowsy driving accidents are just as dangerous as any other type of accident, and your injuries are no less important.
Tuck Sleep Foundation is a community devoted to improving sleep hygiene, health and wellness through the creation and dissemination of comprehensive, unbiased, free web-based resources. Tuck has been featured on NPR, Lifehacker, Radiolab and is referenced by many colleges/universities and sleep organizations across the web.