Even Underreported, Drowsy Driving Statistics Are Terrifying


Photo from Ken Lund

There are just 40 miles to go between you and a warm bed. At 60 miles per hour and five minutes to lug your stuff inside, your head can hit the pillow in less than an hour. You’ve been going for so long. Surely you can stay awake long enough to reach your destination, right?

Not so fast.

According to new statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), that could be a misguided and potentially dangerous call. In fact, the organization reports that more than 100,000 crashes are caused by drowsy driving each year, and that’s likely a low number since these types of accidents are generally underreported.

In a new release, Allstate shared some helpful tips to raise awareness and take steps for preventing accidents caused as a result of sleep deprivation.

Know If You’re At Risk.

Firstly, Allstate recommends that you listen to the warning signs your body is trying to give you, and don’t just assume you’re a good enough driver to power through and avoid an accident. Citing a fact sheet from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the company urges individuals in the following categories to be extra careful when they feel those first symptoms of tiredness begin:

  • Commercial drivers
  • People who don’t get enough sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. If you’re getting less than that, you’re a risk factor, period.
  • People who work a night shift or long hours
  • People who use certain medications
  • People with untreated sleep disorders

There is a temptation to think you know yourself better than you do, but it’s important to remember that it only takes a few seconds for something to go wrong. If you feel your eyelids growing heavy and your head start to sink from the exhaustion, it’s best to pull over and not resume your drive until you feel okay to drive.

Even if you have to take a power nap while parked safely off the roadway, that’s better than the alternative of drowsy driving. You may also wish to consider some technological aids to police your driving before it’s too late.

Allstate notes that some automakers “have created drowsy driving warning systems to alert drivers who may be getting sleepy, by detecting changes in driving styles or the vehicle drifting out of its lane.”

(Two such apps for iOS — Sleep Driving and Akilla — are free. Sleep Driving uses your front-facing camera and requires a mount to remain stable while you’re driving. The app warns you of drowsiness based on head movements. Akilla contains educational facts and tips for driving safely and comes equipped with a 15-minute power nap timer.)


Other Tips For Avoiding Drowsy Driving

  • NHTSA recommends setting a bedtime you stick to every day (even on days off) and making sure your bedroom is dark and quiet as you try to sleep.
  • If you’re a snorer and wake up often throughout the night, you may want to try a Breathe Right strip across your nose, which opens nasal passages and allows smoother breathing.
  • Planning on time zone changes by adapting your body clock to that of the new time zone — think business trips — and scheduling sleep so you’re well-rested for a trip, are also beneficial.
  • Last but not least, don’t take risks with medical issues. Be aware of them, and whether it’s a sleep disorder or a drowsiness-inducing med, adjust driving habits around the need.


In Summary

Drowsy driving may not always lead to a fatality, but it certainly plays a role in the amount of accidents that occur within the United States each year. Today’s release establishes this fact. The encouraging thing is that most of these accidents can be avoided if motorists are more honest with themselves about their true level of alertness. By knowing the warning signs and taking proper steps against drowsy driving, you can make it to your destination on time, every time — and most importantly — in one piece.

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