Drowsy Driving | NHTSA (2022)

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(Video) Good Health: Sleep apnea and drowsy driving


Drowsy driving kills — but is preventable. Learn about three factors commonly associated with drowsy-driving crashes and pick up some helpful tips to avoid falling asleep at the wheel. In this section, you’ll also find several resources and learn what NHTSA is doing to help eliminate this risky behavior.

Drowsy Driving The Issue NHTSA In Action Resources

Scope of the Problem Crash Factors Tips to Drive Alert

Drowsy Driving

(Video) Preventing Drowsy Driving
  • The Issue
    • Scope of the Problem
    • Crash Factors
    • Tips to Drive Alert
  • NHTSA In Action
  • Resources

The Issue

Attitudes About Drowsy Driving Need to Change

Traffic Safety Facts Drowsy Driving

Fatigue has costly effects on the safety, health, and quality of life of the American public. Whether fatigue is caused by sleep restriction due to a new baby waking every couple of hours, a late or long shift at work, hanging out late with friends, or a long and monotonous drive for the holidays – the negative outcomes can be the same. These include impaired cognition and performance, motor vehicle crashes, workplace accidents, and health consequences.

Tackling these issues can be difficult when our lifestyle does not align with avoiding drowsy driving. In a 24/7 society, with an emphasis on work, longer commutes, and exponential advancement of technology, many people do not get the sleep they need. Effectively dealing with the drowsy-driving problem requires fundamental changes to societal norms and especially attitudes about drowsy driving.

The terms drowsy, sleepy, and fatigue are used interchangeably although there are differences in the way these terms are used and understood.

Driving if You Suffer from Sleep Apnea

Precise Numbers of Drowsy-Driving Crashes, Injuries, and Fatalities Are Hard to Nail Down

Unfortunately, determining a precise number of drowsy-driving crashes, injuries, and fatalities is not yet possible. Crash investigators can look for clues that drowsiness contributed to a crash, but these clues are not always identifiable or conclusive.

NHTSA’s census of fatal crashes and estimate of traffic-related crashes and injuries rely on police and hospital reports to determine the incidence of drowsy-driving crashes. 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.But there is broad agreement across the traffic safety, sleep science, and public health communities that this is an underestimate of the impact of drowsy driving.

(Video) Sleepy Drivers Can Dose Unknowingly

The Issue

Sleepiness can result in crashes any time of the day or night, but three factors are most commonly associated with drowsy-driving crashes.

Drowsy-driving crashes:

  1. Occur most frequently between midnight and 6 a.m., or in the late afternoon. At both times of the day, people experience dips in their circadian rhythm—the human body’s internal clock that regulates sleep;
  2. Often involve only a single driver (and no passengers) running off the road at a high rate of speed with no evidence of braking; and
  3. Frequently occur on rural roads and highways.

The Issue

How To Avoid Driving Drowsy

Related Topics

Teen Driving

Older Drivers

  1. 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(PDF, 1.81 MB) atthe National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Avoid drinking any alcohol before driving. Consumption of alcohol interacts with sleepiness to increase drowsiness and impairment.
  5. Always check your prescriptionand over-the-counter medication labels to see if drowsiness could result from their use.
  6. If you take medications that could cause drowsiness as a side effect, use public transportation when possible.
  7. 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.


  1. Drinking coffee or energy drinks alone is not always enough. They might help you feel more alert, but the effects last only a short time, and you might not be as alert as you think you are. If you drink coffee and are seriously sleep-deprived, you still may have “micro sleeps” or brief losses of consciousness that can last for four or five seconds. This means that at 55 miles per hour, you’ve traveled more than 100 yards down the road while asleep. That’s plenty of time to cause a crash.
  2. If you start to get sleepy while you’re driving, drink one to two cups of coffee and pull over for a short 20-minute nap in a safe place, such as a lighted, designated rest stop. This has been shown to increase alertness in scientific studies, but only for short time periods.

NHTSA In Action

NHTSA demonstrates its commitment to eliminating drowsy driving on our nation’s roads by working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health to expand our understanding of drowsy driving so we can reduce related deaths and injuries and help people avoid becoming a drowsy-driving statistic.

(Video) Drowsy Driving Causes, Consequences and Countermeasures

Other efforts include:

  • In 2016, NHTSA released a strategic plan, Drowsy Driving and Research Program Plan (PDF, 613 KB), addressing six broad focus areas: Measurement and Problem Identification, Public Awareness and Education, Policy Development, High-Risk Populations, Vehicle Technology, and Infrastructure.
  • In 2015, NHTSA convened the forum Asleep at the Wheel: A Nation of Drowsy Drivers (PDF, 1.66 MB) during the National Sleep Foundation’s National Drowsy Driving Prevention Week. This meeting included more than 100 participants from many diverse organizations, setting the stage for a national coordinated effort by bringing together motor vehicle and highway safety experts with sleep/circadian science experts and the sleep medicine community.


Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC)

Food & Drug Administration (FDA)

Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)

National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Center on Sleep Disorders Research and Office of Prevention, Education, and Control

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)

Drowsy Driving Prevention Week

Drunk Driving Drug-Impaired Driving Distracted Driving

Seat Belts Speeding Drowsy Driving

(Video) The Dangers of Drowsy Driving


How do you deal with drowsiness while driving? ›

Stay Awake Behind the Wheel
  1. Never drink and drive. ...
  2. If possible, don't drive long distances alone. ...
  3. Get enough shut-eye. ...
  4. Don't begin a trip so late that you're driving when you usually sleep. ...
  5. Watch your posture. ...
  6. Take a break at least every 2 hours. ...
  7. Have 2 cups of a caffeinated drink like coffee, if you can have caffeine.

What are 3 ways to prevent drowsy driving? ›

10 Tips to Avoid Drowsy Driving
  1. Get a Good Night's Sleep. ...
  2. Take Frequent Driving Breaks. ...
  3. Don't Be in a Rush. ...
  4. Avoid Driving Late at Night. ...
  5. Switch Off with a Buddy. ...
  6. Take a Quick Nap. ...
  7. Listen to Engaging Radio Programs. ...
  8. Drink a Caffeinated Beverage.

WHO is especially at risk of drowsy driving choose the best possible answer? ›

Sleep-related crashes are most common in young people, who tend to stay up late, sleep too little, and drive at night. One study found that in 55 percent of sleep-related crashes, drivers were age 25 years or younger and were predominantly men.

How big of a problem is drowsy driving? ›

Each year, drowsy driving accounts for about 100,000 crashes, 71,000 injuries and 1,550 fatalities, according to the National Safety Council (NSC).

What happens to you when you try to drive when you are drowsy? ›

Drowsy driving significantly increases the risk of car accidents. Microsleeps are when a person dozes off for just a few seconds5, and when they occur while driving, it's easy for the car to run off the road or collide with another vehicle.

Why do I get so drowsy when driving? ›

This usually happens when a driver has not slept enough, but it can also happen because of untreated sleep disorders, medications, drinking alcohol, or shift work.

Who is at risk for drowsy driving? ›

Teenagers as a group are at highest risk for crashes related to drowsy driving; other high-risk groups include patients with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and other sleep disorders, shift workers, medical house staff, law enforcement officers, and commercial drivers.

Who is affected by drowsy driving? ›

Drowsy driving affects everyone, including adolescents and teens, who are not getting enough sleep (according to the CDC, it is recommended that teens get 8-10 hours of sleep each night). That means interventions focusing on this age group can help reduce drowsy driving.

Which of the following should you do to prevent drowsy driving? ›

How can you help prevent drowsy driving?
  1. Rest up. Make sure you've had enough sleep before getting behind the wheel of a car. ...
  2. Limit the effects of shift work. If you work late shifts, you may find it difficult to sleep during the day, which can lead to general fatigue. ...
  3. Plan ahead. ...
  4. Be aware of medical issues.

What are the three main environmental factors affecting drowsiness? ›

Environmental conditions, such as temperature, noise, light, bed comfort and electronic distractions, play a significant role in one's ability to get proper sleep—and, subsequently, in overall sleep-related wellness.

Which of the following are signs of a drowsy driver? ›

8 Drowsy Driving Warning Signs to Watch for:

Missing an exit or ignoring traffic signs. Yawning repeatedly or rubbing your eyes. Finding it hard to keep your head up or nodding off. Drifting from your lane, tailgating, or hitting a shoulder rumble strip.

What test do law enforcement use to determine if a driver is sleepy? ›

Field sobriety tests (FTSs) are groups of three tests used by police to determine if a driver is impaired. The tasks assess balance, coordination, and the ability of the driver to divide his attention to more than one task during the field sobriety test.

Why do I doze off while driving? ›

Health Issues, Medications, and Alcohol Play a Part, Too

Aside from sleep debt and your circadian dips, other factors also set drowsy driving in motion: Health issues: Sleep disorders, like obstructive sleep apnea and narcolepsy, are closely associated with excessive daytime sleepiness.

Where do most drowsy-driving accidents occur? ›

NHTSA found that many drowsy-driving crashes involve a single vehicle, with no passengers besides the driver, running off the road at a high rate of speed with no evidence of braking. Drowsy driving accidents frequently occur on rural roads and highways.

What are some of the top 11 driving errors? ›

Terms in this set (11)
  • not staying in your lane.
  • driving 5 mph or more above the speed limit.
  • driving to fast through a curve.
  • bad search at an intersection and thus pulled in front of cross traffic.
  • Involved lack of attention at an intersection.
  • Improper evasive action.
  • failed to maintain visual lead.

What should you do if you feel drowsy while driving on the motorway? ›

Don't ignore warning signs of fatigue. If you feel drowsy, stop at the next motorway service area, get out of the car and walk around. In extreme cases, have a caffeine drink and sleep for 20 minutes while it takes effect. You can only do this once in a journey; it won't have the same effect if you do it again.

Which three population groups are most at risk for drowsy driving? ›

The three groups at high risk are young people, shift workers, and people with untreated sleep conditions.

How do I know if I am drowsy? ›

Continuous yawning and frequent blinking of the eyes are sure signs you are getting too tired to drive. If you're having difficulty remembering how you got to your current location, you may have blacked out slightly from fatigue.

Is driving mentally exhausting? ›

Driving is mentally taxing. You have to be switched on at all times. When you're tired, your reaction times are badly affected, making driving feel like a draining task. Plus there's plenty of other factors that can result in driver fatigue.

How many car accidents are caused by 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.

Is drowsy driving worse than drunk driving? ›

Both conditions slow reaction times and affect alertness and decision-making11. In controlled studies where researchers were able to measure the amount of sleep deprivation, drunk and drowsy driving both result in a similar amount of crashes.

How does drowsy driving compare to driving under the influence? ›

Driving after 24 hours without sleep is like driving with a . 10 percent blood alcohol concentration (BAC) Getting behind the wheel after going 21 hours without sleep is the same as driving at a . 08 percent BAC (the legal limit in all states)

What are the 4 types of fatigue? ›

She spoke about different types of fatigue and how our symptoms might vary after we've experienced each kind. She listed six types of fatigue: social, emotional, physical, pain, mental, and chronic illness.

What's the difference between fatigue and tired? ›

Fatigue is more than being tired or sleepy. People who have fatigue feel so drained that their exhaustion interrupts their daily life. Many conditions and medications can cause overwhelming tiredness. An unhealthy diet, lack of sleep and too little or too much physical activity can also lead to fatigue.

What is the best sleeping environment? ›

Creating a Good Sleep Environment
  • Sleep in darkness. Make the sleeping area very dark if possible. ...
  • Reduce noise: wear earplugs; silence cell phone calls and nonessential alerts.
  • Keep temperatures cool.
  • Avoid watching TV, reading, or working in the sleeping area.
1 Apr 2020

What are the eight signs of a drowsy driver? ›

Warning Signs
  • Having trouble focusing and/or keeping your eyes open;
  • The inability to keep your head up;
  • Daydreaming or experiencing wandering, disconnected thoughts;
  • Tailgating, drifting out of your lane, or swerving off the road;
  • Yawning frequently or rubbing your eyes repeatedly;
  • Disregard for traffic signs;

What is it called when someone falls asleep fast? ›

Narcolepsy is a chronic sleep disorder characterized by overwhelming daytime drowsiness and sudden attacks of sleep. People with narcolepsy often find it difficult to stay awake for long periods of time, regardless of the circumstances. Narcolepsy can cause serious disruptions in your daily routine.

Can people usually tell when they're about to fall asleep? ›

People can usually tell when they are going to fall asleep. Drivers in drowsy-driving crashes are more likely to report sleep problems. Rolling down a window or singing along with the radio while driving will help keep someone awake. Wandering, disconnected thoughts are a warning sign of driver fatigue.

What is the reaction time when drowsy? ›

The visual reaction-time test henceforth showed a mean reaction time of 0.189 seconds for the rested drivers, 0.223 seconds for the tired, and 0.309 seconds for the very tired nighttime drivers (p < . 001).

How many accidents are caused each year by drivers who fall asleep at the wheel? ›

Prevalence of Drowsy Driving Crashes

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that every year about 100,000 police-reported, drowsy-driving crashes result in nearly 800 fatalities and about 50,000 injuries.

How do you fight sleepiness? ›

Self-help tips to fight tiredness
  1. Eat often to beat tiredness. ...
  2. Get moving. ...
  3. Lose weight to gain energy. ...
  4. Sleep well. ...
  5. Reduce stress to boost energy. ...
  6. Talking therapy beats fatigue. ...
  7. Cut out caffeine. ...
  8. Drink less alcohol.

How can I force myself to stay awake? ›

How to Stay Awake Naturally
  1. Get up and move around to feel awake. ...
  2. Take a nap to take the edge off sleepiness. ...
  3. Give your eyes a break to avoid fatigue. ...
  4. Eat a healthy snack to boost energy. ...
  5. Start a conversation to wake up your mind. ...
  6. Turn up the lights to ease fatigue. ...
  7. Take a breather to feel alert.

What are some countermeasures can you take to stop drowsy driving? ›

Most common prevention and countermeasure techniques
  • Take a nap.
  • Drink a caffeinated beverage.
  • Engage in alertness-enhancing activities while driving (radio adjustments, opening a window, engaging in conversation with passengers, etc.)
  • Stop driving.
2 May 2017

How often do people fall asleep driving? ›

Some people battle fatigue on a daily basis, including many workers who work late shifts and split day-and-night shifts. In the most recent drowsy driving statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the CDC estimates that 1 in 25 adult drivers has fallen asleep while driving in the previous 30 days.

What are 10 mistakes new drivers make? ›

Top 10 mistakes young drivers make
  • Being distracted behind the wheel. Cell phones, music, food and even text messages can pose serious distractions to drivers. ...
  • Taking too many risks. ...
  • Speeding. ...
  • Overcrowding the car. ...
  • Driving under the influence. ...
  • Following too closely. ...
  • Driving unbuckled. ...
  • Not being able to handle emergencies.

What is one of the most common driver mistakes? ›

Here are some of the most common driving mistakes:
  1. Staying in the passing/overtaking lanes. ...
  2. Stopping abruptly without warning. ...
  3. Forgetting to use the indicator signs. ...
  4. Switching lanes while turning. ...
  5. Riding the brakes. ...
  6. Speeding through an amber light. ...
  7. Not stopping at pedestrian/zebra crossings. ...
  8. Leaving high beams on.

What are three 3 strategies to avoid speeding? ›

Setting safe speed limits zones and advisory speeds– so that vehicles drivers and riders can travelling at the a speed limit that allows them can safelyto maintain control and respond to potential risks in the road environment. Speed enforcement – to ensure drivers comply with the speed limit.

What are 3 types of fatigue? ›

There are three types of fatigue: transient, cumulative, and circadian: Transient fatigue is acute fatigue brought on by extreme sleep restriction or extended hours awake within 1 or 2 days. Cumulative fatigue is fatigue brought on by repeated mild sleep restriction or extended hours awake across a series of days.

What keeps you awake while driving? ›

Some common tactics people rely on to stay awake behind the wheel include talking on the phone, blasting the radio, eating candy or snacks, or rolling down the windows to let a gust of air in. Some may resort to slapping or pinching themselves.

What are the three main types of distraction when driving? ›

Distracted Driving
  • Visual: taking your eyes off the road.
  • Manual: taking your hands off the wheel.
  • Cognitive: taking your mind off driving.

How do I make sure I don't speed? ›

Use these safe driving tips to help you learn how to stop speeding and be a safer driver.
  1. Start Cruising. ...
  2. Give Yourself More Time. ...
  3. Check Your Speedometer. ...
  4. Learn the Cost of Speeding. ...
  5. Consider Your Tires. ...
  6. Identify Speeding Triggers. ...
  7. Practice Calming Exercises. ...
  8. Use Technology.
4 Jun 2021

Why do people speed up when you pass them? ›

There are three possible reasons: They are clueless, not paying attention to speed and just accidentally accelerating the same time you are overtaking them.

What are 4 warning signs of fatigue? ›

Symptoms of fatigue
  • chronic tiredness or sleepiness.
  • headache.
  • dizziness.
  • sore or aching muscles.
  • muscle weakness.
  • slowed reflexes and responses.
  • impaired decision-making and judgement.
  • moodiness, such as irritability.

Why is my energy so low? ›

Lack of energy is a typical symptom for most major diseases, like heart disease, many types of cancer, autoimmune diseases such as lupus and multiple sclerosis, and anemia (too few red blood cells). Fatigue also is a common sign of depression and anxiety. And fatigue is a side effect of some medications.

What makes a woman tired all the time? ›

Hormonal and lifestyle differences like pregnancy, menstruation, and menopause mean that women need more iron than men in their diet, but few women actually get as much as they need. The result—anemia's—most common symptoms include fatigue and weakness.

What can I take for energy while driving? ›

Caffeine pills and energy pills can be just as effective for keeping you awake as coffee, or an energy drink would be. If you don't like the taste of coffee or if it makes your stomach upset, consider using caffeine/energy supplements. They'll give you all the same benefits without any unpleasant side effects.

What gives you energy while driving? ›

Make sure when drinking caffeine or eating salty foods to counter act the dehydration with plenty of water! Finally, eat energy-boosting foods! Avoid sugar and other junk foods. The key to boosting your energy naturally with food is a combination of fiber, complex-carbs, protein, and (a little) fat.

How do I get energy to drive? ›

If you need to stay awake while driving, make sure to get energy before a long drive by having a short nap. On the road, drink caffeine and have small, healthy snacks. You can also do things like listen to music or radio shows to stay alert. If you are too tired to drive, pull over and rest.

What is the number 1 cause of distracted driving? ›

Talking and texting.

People who use their cell phones to talk or text while driving are by far the most common reason for distracted driving accidents. In fact, the National Safety Council estimates that 26% of all car crashes involve cell phones.

When driving where should you focus most of your attention? ›

As you drive, most of your attention should be focused ahead of you, where your car will be in a few seconds. You need to constantly watch out for driving conditions and the actions of other drivers. Anything that seriously distracts you from the road ahead puts you and those around you in danger.


1. Carcolepsy: Why Do We Get Sleepy in Cars?
2. 5 Tips To Stay Awake While Driving-Avoid Drowsy Driving
(Helpful DIY)
3. How To Prevent Dangerous Drowsy Driving
4. Drowsy Driving Awareness Week - How to Avoid Driving Drowsy
(Utah Department of Public Safety)
5. The Danger of Drowsy Drivers
(ABC News)
6. Drowsy Driving Awareness Week - How to Prevent Driving Drowsy
(Utah Department of Public Safety)

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