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Prevent Drowsy Driving: Stay Awake at the Wheel!

One in five fatal accidents on American roads involves a drowsy driver, according to a recent report from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Unfortunately, driving while fatigued is common in today’s world, yet the consequences can be tragic.

The National Healthy Sleep Awareness Project urges every driver to take responsibility for staying “Awake at the Wheel” by making it a daily priority to get sufficient sleep, refusing to drive when sleep deprived, recognizing the signs of drowsiness, and pulling off the road to a safe location when sleepy.

“Drowsiness is similar to alcohol in how it compromises driving ability by reducing alertness and attentiveness, delaying reaction times, and hindering decision-making skills,” said Dr. Nathaniel Watson, president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.“Drowsy driving is deadly, but it can be prevented.”

How can you prevent drowsy driving? 

Getting seven to nine hours of nightly sleep is the best way to prevent drowsy driving. Drivers should also avoid driving late at night or alone, and they should share the driving with another passenger on long trips.

Pull over or have another passenger take the wheel if you experience any of the following warning signs of drowsy driving:
  • You keep yawning or are unable to keep your eyes open.
  • You catch yourself “nodding off” and have trouble keeping your head up.
  • You can’t remember driving the last few miles.
  • You end up too close to cars in front of you.
  • You miss road signs or drive past your turn.
  • You drift into the other lane of traffic.
  • You drift onto the “rumble strip” or onto the shoulder of the road.
Updated Nov. 12, 2019

Awake at the Wheel drowsy driving infographic
Awake at the Wheel logo
Health Advisory
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Each year in the U.S. drowsy driving causes an estimated:
  • 6% of crashes requiring a tow truck
  • 7% of crashes involving injuries
  • 13% of crashes involving hospitalization
  • 21% of crashes in which a person was killed
Each year in the U.S. drowsy driving causes an average of:
  • 328,000 crashes
  • 109,000 crashes that result in injuries
  • 6,400 fatal crashes
Source: AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, November 2014

  • Nearly 1 in 3 drivers (32 percent) say they have driven when they were so tired they had a hard time keeping their eyes open in the past 30 days. 

  • More than 1 in 5 (22 percent) drivers admitted doing this more than once during that time.
Source: AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, February 2016

  • Drivers who usually sleep for less than 5 hours daily had 5.4 times the crash rate of drivers who reported that they usually slept for 7 hours or more.

  • Drivers who have slept for less than 7 hours in the past 24 hours have significantly elevated crash rates.
  • Drivers who have slept for 1 or more hours less than their usual amount of sleep in the past 24 hours have significantly elevated crash rates.

Updated April 3, 2017