Tired driver - Copyright:  Lorenzo Cavoretto

Silent Killer

Driving while drowsy is a silent killer. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, every year more than 1,550 highway deaths occur because of drowsy driving.

The typical crash related to sleepiness has the following characteristics:

  • The problem occurs during late night, early morning or midafternoon.
  • The crash is likely to be serious.
  • A single vehicle leaves the roadway.
  • The crash occurs on a high-speed road.
  • The driver does not attempt to avoid a crash.
  • The driver is alone in the vehicle.

Population Groups at Highest Risk

The following three population groups are at highest risk:

  • Young people (ages 16 to 29), especially males.
  • Shift workers whose sleep is disrupted by working at night or working long or irregular hours.
  • People with untreated sleep apnea syndrome (SAS) and narcolepsy.

The data is based on evidence from crash reports and self-reports of sleep behavior and driving performance.

Important Factors that Increases the Risk

  • Sleep loss.
  • Driving patterns, including driving between midnight and 6 a.m. and driving for longer times without taking a break.
  • Use of sedating medications.
  • Untreated or unrecognized sleep disorders.
  • Consumption of alcohol.

Source: NCSDR/NHTSA Expert Panel on Driver Fatigue and Sleepiness.