The Impact of Drowsy Driving

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Drowsy driving poses a serious risk not only for one’s own health and safety, but also for the other people on the road. Being drowsy affects your ability to drive safely even if you don’t actually fall asleep at the wheel. Drowsiness makes drivers less attentive, slows reaction time, and affects a driver’s ability to make decisions.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, about half of U.S. adult drivers admit to consistently getting behind the wheel while feeling drowsy. About 20% admit to falling asleep behind the wheel at some point in the past year – with more than 40% admitting this has happened at least once in their driving careers.

Impact of Drowsiness on Driving

Driving while drowsy is similar to driving under influence of alcohol. Driving after going more than 20 hours without sleep is the equivalent of driving with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08% – the U.S. legal limit. A driver might not even know when he or she is fatigued because signs of fatigue are hard to identify. Some people may also experience micro-sleep – short, involuntary periods of inattention. In the 4 or 5 seconds a driver experiences micro-sleep, at highway speed, the vehicle will travel the length of a football field.

Drowsy Driving Crashes

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, every year about 100,000 police-reported crashes involve drowsy driving. These crashes result in more than 1,550 fatalities and 71,000 injuries. The real number may be much higher, however, as it is difficult to determine whether a driver was drowsy at the time of a crash.

A study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimated that 328,000 drowsy driving crashes occur annually. That’s more than three times the police-reported number. The same study found that 109,000 of those drowsy driving crashes resulted in an injury and about 6,400 were fatal. The researchers suggest the prevalence of drowsy driving fatalities is more than 350% greater than reported.

Too Tired to Drive?

The following are signs and symptoms of drowsy driving, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine:

  • Frequent yawning or difficulty keeping your eyes open
  • “Nodding off” or having trouble keeping your head up
  • Inability to remember driving the last few miles
  • Missing road signs or turns
  • Difficulty maintaining your speed
  • Drifting out of your lane

Untreated obstructive sleep disorders can lead to other health consequences. Contact our office Fox Dental with any questions.