Sleeping and Driving Don’t Mix

Fact Sheet

  • Many more victims lose their lives in crashes for the same reason, but cannot report this fact to the investigating officer. Consequently the statistics underreport the actual number of victims.
  • The CHP stops many drivers who appear to be “under the influence” but who are just sleepy. If they hadn’t been stopped, they may not have made it home safely.
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that more than 200,000 auto collisions annually may be fatigue-related.
  • According to a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) study, 31percent of fatal-to-the-driver commercial truck collisions were caused by drowsiness.
  • In a study of fatal crashes on the New York Thruway, an estimated 40 to 50 percent occurred because the driver fell asleep at the wheel. However, this number cannot be extrapolated to all fatal crashes.
  • Stress is considered by most sleep experts to be the number one cause of short-term sleeping difficulties.
  • In a survey conducted by the state of New York, 24 percent of the respondents reported having fallen asleep at the wheel and nearly 5 percent reported having had a crash as a result.

Safe Driving Sleepy Quiz

Coffee overcomes the effects of drowsiness while driving: FALSE

Caffeine is not a substitute for sleep. It works only in the short run and wears off FAST. You are still subject to sleep deprived “micro-naps” that can last 4-5 seconds. At 55 MPH, that is more than 100 yards!!!

I can tell when I’m going to fall asleep: FALSE

Most people think this is true. It simply is not. If you’re drowsy, you know generally when you might fall asleep, but the moment is something completely out of your control. You also do not know how long you have been asleep, and even a few seconds can end up with fatal results for you or someone else.

I’m a safe driver so it doesn’t matter if I’m sleepy: FALSE

The ONLY safe driver is the alert driver. A driving instructor becomes a menace if they are sleepy behind the wheel. The young man who was awarded “America’s Safest Teen Driver” in 1990 later fell asleep behind the wheel and was killed. Sucks.

I can’t take naps: FALSE

Many people say this. If you think you can’t nap, stop the car and recline for 15 minutes anyway. Find a quiet place that is safe…..the corner of a mall or a gas station. Lock your doors, and roll up your windows. I even carry a sleep mask in the car. People look at me funny, but hey…..Like I REALLY care what THEY think!

I get plenty of sleep: FALSE

Ask yourself this… you wake up RESTED? I know precious few people who can answer that “YES”. The average person needs 7-8 hours of sleep a night. If you don’t get it, you are building up a “sleep debt” which is cumulative.

Being sleepy makes you misperceive thing: TRUE

Have you ever driven at night and thought you’d seen an animal but it turned out to be something else (like your wife or husband)? A drowsy driver does not process information as fast or accurately as an alert driver and is unable to react quickly enough to avoid a collision. By the way….if you DO see a real animal, hitting one of THEM is like hitting a brick wall…..can be fatal to both of you.

Young people need less sleep: FALSE

In fact, teens and young adults need MORE sleep than people in their 30’s. This is due to increased activity and output which need more regeneration time.

Here are some warning signals:

  • Your eyes close or go out of focus by themselves
  • You have trouble keeping your head up
  • You can’t stop yawning
  • You have wandering thoughts
  • You get sexually stimulated by the thought of Bea Arthur
  • You don’t remember driving the past few miles
  • You drift between lanes, tailgate, or miss signs
  • You have drifted off the road and narrowly missed crashing

If you have any one of these symptoms….PULL OFF THE ROAD and take a nap. Please be aware though, that may states do NOT allow you to use the shoulder of a freeway or highway this way.