Drowsy driving is a lot like drunk driving. A sleepy driver scans the road less, has slower reaction times, and generally does not pay enough attention to the surroundings, just like a driver impaired by alcohol. A driver who is awake for 18 hours will drive similarly to someone with a .05% blood-alcohol content. A driver who’s been awake for 24 hours, mimics a driver with a 0.10% alcohol level, which is above the legal limit of 0.08%.

The Dangers of Drowsy Driving

AAA: Drowsy driving increases your risk of a traffic accident

Driving while drowsy increases your chance of causing a traffic accident. Image courtesy of AAA.

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, at least 20 percent of all fatal crashes on U.S. roadways each year involve drowsy driving. And, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that in 2017 alone, approximately 91,000 traffic accidents occurred nationwide from drowsy driving, resulting in 50,000 injuries and 800 deaths. These statistics only reflect accidents that were reported to police. The NHTSA, along with public health communities and sleep scientists agree drowsy driving is significantly underreported in the United States.

How to prevent drowsy driving?

If you’re headed out on a long road trip, plan ahead and get plenty of sleep. Some of the things you can build into your trip include:

  • Scheduling regular stops. Plan on stopping every 100 miles or every two hours to give yourself a break and freshen up.
  • Avoiding driving from midnight to 5:00 AM. This is the time most people’s bodies are programmed to be asleep so a best practice is to avoid driving during this timeframe if at all possible.
  • Cruise control—yes or no? Many like to use this option, but it can also cause the body to rest and relax, and that could lead to accelerated symptoms of drowsiness.
  • Hydrate. Your body can also become drowsy when you’re dehydrated. Be sure to have an ample supply of water on long trips.
  • If symptoms set in, stop and rest right away. Look for a rest stop, hotel, or other safe location where sleeping is allowed. Be sure you’re fully rested before you start back up on your trip.

Drowsy driving does not get the same amount of media coverage that drunk driving and distracted driving do, but it’s just as dangerous. It leads to loss of attention and focus on the road that could put you or another’s life in danger. It’s just not worth the risk.

For more information, see the National Sleep Foundation’s tips to avoid drowsy driving and the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s Brochure: How to Avoid Drowsy Driving.



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