Did You Know…
- 100,000 crashes each year are caused by fatigued drivers
- 55% of drowsy driving crashes are caused by drivers less than 25 years old
- Being awake for 18 hours is equal to a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08%, which is legally drunk and leaves you at equal risk for a crash
How Can You Tell if You Are “Driving While Drowsy”?
Here are some signs that should tell a driver 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 a sleep debt
- Driving long distances without proper rest breaks
- Driving through the night, midafternoon 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 having a crash due to drowsy driving is not uniformly distributed across the population. Research has identified young males, shift workers, commercial drivers and people with untreated sleep disorders or with short-term or chronic sleep deprivation as being at increased risk for having a fall-asleep crash.
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 all heavy truck crashes involve fatigue.
People with undiagnosed or untreated disorders — People with untreated obstructive sleep apnea have been shown to have up to a seven times increased risk of falling asleep at the wheel.
Business travelers — who spend many hours driving or may be jet lagged
Adequate Sleep and Planning
Before hitting the road, drivers should:
Get a good night’s sleep. While this varies from individual to individual, sleep experts recommend between 7-9 hours of sleep per night for adults and 8 1/2-9 1/2 for teens.
Plan to drive long trips with a companion. Passengers can help look for early warning signs of fatigue or switch drivers when needed. Passengers should stay awake to talk to the driver.
Schedule regular stops, every 100 miles or two hours.
Avoid alcohol and medications (over-the-counter and prescribed) that may impair performance. Alcohol interacts with fatigue, increasing its effects — just like drinking on an empty stomach.
Consult their physicians or a local sleep disorders center for diagnosis and treatment if they suffer frequent daytime sleepiness, often have difficulty sleeping at night, and/or snore loudly every night.
How Can You Prevent Drowsy Driving?
Here are some suggestions:
- Take a 15 to 20-minute nap. More than 20 minutes can make you groggy for at least five minutes after awakening.
- Consume the equivalent of two cups of coffee. Caffeine is available in various forms (e.g. soft drinks, energy drinks, coffee, tea, chewing gum, tablets) and amounts; remember, caffeine takes about 30 minutes to enter the blood stream and will not greatly affect those who regularly consume it. For best results, try taking caffeine and then a short nap to get the benefits of both.