Drowsy driving is the mix of driving when sleepy and being risky. This typically occurs when a driver has not gotten enough sleep, but it can also result from untreated sleep problems or shift work. Alcohol can combine with tiredness to exacerbate impairment and drowsiness, and prescription and over-the-counter drugs can also cause drowsiness.
Nobody knows exactly when sleep will overtake their body. Clearly, falling asleep at the wheel is harmful, but even if you don’t fall asleep, being sleepy impairs your ability to drive safely.
- Makes you less able to pay attention to the road.
- Slows your reaction time if you must brake or steer suddenly.
- Affects your ability to make good decisions.
Did You Know?
- In a CDC survey, an estimated 1 in 25 adult drivers (aged 18 years or older) reported having fallen asleep while driving in the previous 30 days.
- In the same CDC survey, adult drivers who snore or usually sleep 6 or fewer hours per day were more likely to report falling asleep while driving than drivers who do not snore or usually sleep 7 or more hours per day, respectively.
- Drowsy driving was involved in 91,000 crashes in 2017—resulting in 50,000 injuries and nearly 800 deaths. In 2020, there were 633 deaths based on police reports. However, these numbers are underestimated, and over 6,000 fatal crashes each year may involve a drowsy driver.
Who’s at greater risk of drowsy driving and related crashes and deaths?
- Teen and young adult drivers.
- Drivers on the road between midnight and 6 a.m. or in the later afternoon.
- Drivers who don’t get enough sleep.
- Commercial truck drivers.
- Drivers who work the night shift or long shifts.
- Drivers with untreated sleep disorders—like sleep apnea, where breathing repeatedly stops and starts.
- Drivers who use medicines that make them sleepy.
Learn the warning signs of drowsy driving:
- Yawning or blinking frequently.
- Trouble remembering the past few miles driven.
- Missing your exit.
- Drifting from your lane.
- Hitting a rumble strip on the side of the road.
Prevent drowsy driving before taking the wheel
- Get enough sleep! Most adults need at least 7 hours of sleep a day, and teens need at least 8 hours.
- Develop good sleeping habits, such as sticking to a sleep schedule.
- If you have a sleep disorder or have symptoms of a sleep disorder such as snoring or feeling sleepy during the day, talk to your doctor about treatment options.
- Before you drive, avoid taking medicines that make you sleepy. Be sure to check the label on any medicines you take or talk to your pharmacist.
- Before you drive, avoid drinking alcohol. Alcohol impairs the skills needed for driving and increases drowsiness.