Drowsy Driving

Drowsy driving is a common – and often deadly – danger on our roads.  It occurs when you are too tired to remain alert while operating a motor vehicle.  As a result you may struggle to stay focused on the road and fail to practice safe driving techniques. 

Feeling drowsy makes you easily distracted.  You may be unable to focus and pay attention.  This can lead to increased errors and a decreased ability to detect and correct mistakes.  Your thinking can be slowed and your response time delayed.  People who are sleepy also tend to be unaware that their performance and alertness are suffering. 

Drowsy driving can be as deadly as drunk driving, putting yourself, your passengers and other drivers in danger.  Common mistakes while driving drowsy include:

  • Following too closely behind the vehicle in front of you
  • Failing to realize that you are driving too fast
  • Drifting into another lane or off the road without knowing it
  • Falling asleep behind the wheel and losing control of your vehicle

Accidents caused by drowsy driving tend to share some common features.  These include:

Time of Day:  Accidents often occur late at night or early in the morning during the body’s natural sleep period. Accidents also can occur when sleepiness peaks after lunch in the middle of the afternoon.

Speed:  Accidents often occur at high speeds on highways and other major roadways.

Solitude: Accidents often involve one vehicle that veers off the road. Drivers often are alone in the vehicle.

No Brakes: Drivers often make no attempt to apply the brakes or avoid the crash.

Severity:  Accidents often cause severe injuries or death.

Anyone who doesn’t get enough sleep can drive drowsy.  But certain people have a higher risk than others, including people who:

  • Take medications that cause sleepiness
  • Drink alcohol, which increases drowsiness
  • Work night shifts or rotating shifts
  • Have a sleep disorder

Select one of the links below to learn more from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine about drowsy driving: