Posted on: Sep. 24, 2017 in Driving, Safety

Now that school is back in session, many more people are back on the roads. Teachers are commuting again, college students are back to classes, and recently-licensed teens are picking up friends on the way to high school and other social events. More vehicles on the roads means a higher risk of traffic accident and one risk factor in particular can really up the odds: Fatigued driving.


The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety recently found that driving while drowsy was as dangerous as driving while intoxicated. Missing even a small amount of sleep can nearly double the risk of getting into a car accident. The study reviewed thousands of vehicle crashes where injuries were involved and found that drivers who slept six hours per night were 1.3 times more likely to be in an accident and those who slept only five hours were 1.9 times more likely than those who logged seven hours of shut eye.

Those most at risk for fatigued driving include

  • People who are on medication that makes them drowsy,
  • People who are driving for long periods of time, particularly at night
  • People with untreated sleep disorders such as sleep apnea
  • People who work night shifts or long shifts
  • People who simply don’t get enough sleep

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend at least seven hours of sleep per night. However, they estimate that only about 65% of drivers in the United States actually achieve that goal. Regardless of the reason for the lack of sleep, the results are the same. Fatigued drivers have more difficulty keeping their eyes open and have a slower reaction time in response to a need for sudden braking or steering. In addition, they make more unsafe decisions than drivers who are rested.

How can you tell if your driving is compromised because of fatigue? Here are some warning signs you may be too drowsy to drive:

  • Frequent yawning or blinking
  • Forgetting where you are or difficult remembering the last few miles you’ve driven
  • Missing your exit
  • Drifting out of your lane and/or hitting the rumble strip on the side of the road

If you find that you are too drowsy to drive, pull over. Ask someone else to drive or rest before getting back on the road. While you’ll often hear people say opening the window or turning on upbeat music can help, these are not effective techniques. The only effective remedy for sleepiness is sleep.

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