It was recently reported that two out of every five drivers, or 41%, have admitted to falling asleep behind the wheel at some point in their lives. Additionally, one in ten drivers admit that this has happened to them within the past year while more than a quarter reported that they continued to drive even though they were so tired that they had difficulty keeping their eyes open in the past month alone. The report, released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety just in time for the National Sleep Foundation's Drowsy Driving Prevention Week, is alarming to many who had previously underestimated the amount of those who partook in this dangerous driving habit.

While 85% of drivers spoken to during the same survey remarked that it was "completely unacceptable" for someone to drive if they are so tired they are having trouble keeping their eyes open, these statistics prove that these treacherous driving practices are on the rise. According to Peter Kissinger, the CEO and President of the AAA Foundation, being sleepy behind the wheel of a car can be just as dangerous as being under the influence of drugs or alcohol while driving. In each situation, drivers have impaired judgment, slower reaction times and decreased awareness, all of which can significantly increase the likelihood of a car accident.

There are several steps that can be taken to recognize your own sleepiness and determine whether or not driving is a good idea as well as suggestions that can be used to remain alert when behind the wheel. The most obvious symptoms of sleepiness include:

  • Having trouble keeping your eyes open and focused,
  • The inability to keep your head up,
  • Daydreaming frequently or having wandering, disconnected thoughts,
  • Drifting from your lane or off the road, or tailgating
It is imperative to warn drivers of the dangers of driving while overtired. Since a quarter of drivers have admitted to operating a vehicle in an incapacitated state within the last month, organizations such as the National Sleep Foundation and the AAA Foundation are working diligently to publicize the perils of this behavior and take action. Drivers can do their part to help ensure that this trend does not continue by avoiding drowsiness when on the road. Some suggestions include:
  • Getting plenty of sleep at night (at least 6 hours) before a long trip,
  • Scheduling a rest period every 2 hours or every 100 miles,
  • Traveling at times when you are normally awake and staying overnight somewhere instead of forcing yourself to drive straight through,
  • Stop driving right away if you become sleepy - Someone who is overly fatigued could easily fall asleep at any time
For more information about the study, including the full report, explore