Health Advocate Blog

Are you too drowsy to drive?

This week is the National Sleep Foundation’s Drowsy Driving Prevention Week.  Did you know that drowsiness can impair judgment, performance, and reaction times just like alcohol and drugs can?  The National Sleep Foundation says that studies have shown that being awake for over 20 hours can result in an impairment equal to a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08–the legal limit in all 50 states.


Some eye-opening statistics…

  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conservatively estimates that 100,000 police-reported crashes each year are caused by drowsy driving.
  • Those crashes result in over 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries, and $12.5 billion in monetary losses.
  • According to surveys run by the National Sleep Foundation, 50% of American adults reported that they consistently drive drowsy.  20% of survey respondents have reported that they’ve fallen asleep at the wheel.

Signs you’re too sleepy to drive…

  • Staying focused, keeping your eyes open, and/or keeping your head up.
  • Yawning and/or repeatedly rubbing your eyes.
  • Drifting from your lane, missing signs or exits, tailgating.
  • Relying on turning up the radio or rolling down the car windows.
  • Having a slower reaction time to things happening on the road.

If you are experiencing any of those signs, pull over at a safe place and consume caffeine, take a 15-20 minute nap, find a place to sleep for the night or, if you are not the only person in the car, switch drivers. 

Tips for safer driving

  • Don’t drive if you have consumed alcohol, if you know that you are sleepy, or if you are taking medication that could make you drowsy–before getting behind the wheel, check your medication labels and talk to your doctor and pharmacist about the side effects of your medications.
  • Get a good night’s sleep before a long drive.
  • Get off the road if you notice that you’re feeling sleepy.
  • Drive with someone else–that way you can take turns at the wheel.
  • Wear your seat belt.

The best way to avoid drowsy driving is to engage in good sleep habits, such as getting an adequate amount of sleep, on a consistent basis, and also to seek help for any sleep problems you’re having.  If you are experiencing any sleep issues–such as insomnia, persistent grogginess, sleeplessness, etc–talk to your doctor.  

For more information on Drowsy Driving Prevention Week and healthy sleep habits, visit and