The impacts of drowsy driving on today's roads

We hear about drunk driving, drugged driving and distracted driving, but what about drowsy driving?

We hear about drunk driving, drugged driving and distracted driving, but what about drowsy driving? Drowsy driving is driving while being cognitively impaired by lack of sleep.

The Risk

There's a myth that driving drowsy can't nearly be as bad as driving drunk or distracted. Wrong.

It's way more common that you think. According to the National Sleep Foundation:

  • 60% of adult drivers in the U.S. say they have driven while feeling drowsy in the past year.
  • More than one-third of adult drivers have fallen asleep at the wheel

That's only the beginning. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that:

  • 100,000 crashes are a direct result of drowsy driving each year, causing over 1,500 deaths.
  • Drowsy driving accidents are most likely to happen during early morning commutes (4-6 a.m.), late night travels (12-2 am) and afternoon slumps (2-4 p.m.).
  • Drowsy accidents also tend to happen more on long, rural highways compared to more urban areas.

Studies show that being awake for more than 20 hours results in an impairment equal to a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08, the legal limit in all states.

Whether you are driving drunk, drugged, distracted or drowsy, your reaction time drops significantly. Many drivers are less able to pay attention to the road and make good driving decisions. 

Research shows that those who are at the highest risk are men under the age of 25, commercial drivers, shift workers, business travelers and those with untreated sleep disorders.

Have you ever caught yourself dozing off while driving?

Or maybe you suddenly realize you don't remember the last few miles you drove. Even if you've just felt tired behind the wheel, you're putting yourself and others in danger on the roads. Imagine, if every 3 out of 5 drivers on the road today are drowsy, coupled with those that are distracted or under the influence, our roads become very dangerous to navigate.

Know the Warning Signs

Drowsy driving can sneak up on you. Watch for these warning signs: 

  • Yawning or blinking frequently
  • Difficulty remembering the last few miles driven
  • Missing turns or exits
  • Drifting from your lane or hitting rumble strips

What to do if you're feeling drowsy

If you catch yourself starting to feel a bit drowsy:

  • Turn up the radio or rolling down the window.  
  • Pull over to rest or change drivers if possible
  • Take a quick 15-20 minute nap. This can help enhance your motor skills and attention span
  • If nothing else works,get a hotel room for a night to rest

Prevent drowsy driving before getting behind the wheel

The best thing you can do to prevent drowsy driving is to get enough sleep. Make it a goal to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night. A study done by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety suggests that drivers who sleep only five or six hours in a 24-hour period are twice as likely to crash as drivers who get seven hours of sleep or more. Avoid alcohol or taking medications that make you drowsy before driving. If it's a long trip, schedule breaks every 100 miles or 2 hours to stretch and take a power nap if needed. 


Your morning cup of joe could make a difference, but make sure you're caffeinating the right way. About 2 cups of coffee or 190 mg of caffeine could give you the energy you need. Caffeine can take up to 30 minutes to enter your bloodstream, so sipping while you drive may not help. Also, if you regularly consume coffee, it might not affect you as much. 

Not a coffee fan? Caffeine is available in various forms like soft drinks, energy drinks, tea, chewing gum and tablets. Try taking caffeine and then a short nap to get the benefits of both.

Stay alert on the roads to protect yourself and others. For tips and tricks to get a better night's sleep and feel more rested, visit


The views and opinions expressed in this blog are the personal views and experiences of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the official views, practices and/or policies of State Automobile Mutual Insurance Company, its affiliates and subsidiaries. State Auto makes no representations or guarantee as to the correctness or sufficiency of any information contained herein, or guarantees results based upon use of this information. State Auto does not warrant that reliance upon this document will prevent accident or losses, or satisfy federal, state or local codes, ordinances and regulations. The reader assumes entire risk as to use of this information.

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