We talk a lot about the dangers of distracted driving and drunk driving, but the dangers of drowsy driving are just as important—and just as fatal. In recognition of Drowsy Driving Prevention Week®, November 1–8, we provide some surprising statistics and signs that indicate you should not get behind the wheel.
If you think the risks of drowsy driving are easy to dismiss, check out these statistics:
- The National Safety Council (NSC) reports that if you haven’t slept in 20 hours or more, it’s like driving with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08%, affecting your reaction times, awareness, and level of attention.
- The NSC also says you are three times more likely to be in an auto accident if you are fatigued.
- The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) reports that the average number of drowsy driving crashes in the U.S is 328,000, the number with injuries is 109,000, and the number of fatalities in 2018 was 775 (more than 2 percent of total fatalities). However, these numbers may be higher because unlike blood alcohol concentration, it’s not possible to know a driver’s drowsiness level.
- A study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety demonstrated that people who sleep five to six hours a night were twice as likely to be involved in such a crash as those sleeping 7 hours or more, while people sleeping less than 5 hours increased their risk four to five times.
There are a number of indications that you are too drowsy to drive, according to the NSC. Don’t drive if you:
- Are yawning frequently, have trouble keeping your eyes open, or catch yourself nodding off;
- Can’t remember driving the last few miles;
- Miss road signs, turns or traffic signs and signals; or
- Drift out of your lane or struggle to maintain a consistent speed.
Preventing drowsy driving seems simple: don’t drive if you are fatigued. However, most people overestimate their ability to stay alert and underestimate the dangers of drowsy driving. Here are a few tips:
- Be honest with yourself about your ability to safely operate a vehicle, considering the harm and potential loss of life that may result.
- Don’t let others drive drowsy. Just as you would take the keys away from a loved one who’s had too much to drink, do the same for someone who is overtired.
- If you are an employer with paid drivers, ensure your policies and safety resources cover drowsy driving.