When people drive while they are tired, drowsy or sleepy, this is commonly referred to as “driver fatigue” or drowsy driving.
NHTSA estimates that in 2017, 91,000 police-reported crashes involved drowsy drivers. These crashes led to an estimated 50,000 people injured and nearly 800 deaths.
Sleepiness can result in crashes any time of the day or night, but three factors are most commonly associated with drowsy-driving crashes:
- Occur most frequently between midnight and 6 a.m., or in the late afternoon.
- Often involve only a single driver (and no passengers) running off the road at a high rate of speed with no evidence of braking.
- Frequently occur on rural roads and highways.
Knowing that drowsy driving is a top cause of car accidents – what can you do to prevent drowsy driving? Below are seven tips from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
How To Avoid Driving Drowsy
- Getting adequate sleep on a daily basis is the only true way to protect yourself against the risks of driving when you’re drowsy. Experts urge consumers to make it a priority to get seven to eight hours of sleep per night. For more information on healthy sleep, see In Brief: Your Guide to Healthy Sleep at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website.
- Before the start of a long family car trip, get a good night’s sleep, or you could put your entire family and others at risk.
- Many teens do not get enough sleep at a stage in life when their biological need for sleep increases, which makes them vulnerable to the risk of drowsy-driving crashes, especially on longer trips. Advise your teens to delay driving until they’re well-rested.
- Avoid drinking any alcohol before driving. Consumption of alcohol interacts with sleepiness to increase drowsiness and impairment.
- Always check your prescription and over-the-counter medication labels to see if drowsiness could result from their use.
- If you take medications that could cause drowsiness as a side effect, use public transportation when possible.
- If you drive, avoid driving during the peak sleepiness periods (midnight – 6 a.m. and late afternoon). If you must drive during the peak sleepiness periods, stay vigilant for signs of drowsiness, such as crossing over roadway lines or hitting a rumble strip, especially if you’re driving alone.
The NHTSA is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health to expand the understanding of drowsy driving and reduce related deaths and injuries.
Other useful resources:
- NHTSA Drowsy Driving Research and Program Plan
- Asleep at the Wheel: A Nation of Drowsy Drivers
- The National Sleep Foundation’s Drowsy Driving Prevention Week
- Risky Driving: Drowsy Driving by NHTSA
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