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The Dangers of Drowsy Driving

“The average adult needs 7 or more hours of sleep per night,” according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. “Failing to get enough sleep on a regular basis can result in ;excessive sleepiness behind the wheel.”

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), citing a AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety Study conducted in 2009-2013, reports that “13% of crashes in which a person was hospital­ized, and 21% of crashes in which a person was killed involved a drowsy driver.” Other studies have shown that going too long without sleep can impair your ability to drive the same way as drinking too much alcohol can.

Drowsy driving – Who’s at risk?
Anyone who drives is at risk of falling asleep at the wheel, but some are more at risk than others:

  • Drivers who don’t get enough sleep.
  • Commercial drivers who operate vehicles such as tow trucks, tractor trailers, and buses.
  • Shift workers who work the night shift or long shifts.
  • Drivers with untreated sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, where breathing repeatedly
    stops and starts.
  • Drivers who use medications that make them drowsy.

Preventing a drowsy driving crash
The best way to avoid a drowsy driving crash is to get adequate sleep on a regular basis, practice good sleep habits, and seek treatment for sleep problems, should they arise.

Some warning signs of fatigue

  • You can’t remember the last few miles driven.
  • You hit a rumble strip or drift from your lane.
  • Your thoughts are wandering and disconnected.
  • You yawn repeatedly.
  • You have difficulty focusing or keeping your eyes open.
  • You tailgate or miss traffic signs.
  • You have trouble keeping your head up.
  • You keep pulling your vehicle back into the lane.

If you’re tired and in danger of falling asleep, then you cannot predict when a “mini” sleep may occur. A driver cannot react to road dangers when tired. Getting enough sleep will not only help you feel better, it can save your life.

 Drowsy driving prevention tips
The CDC recommends preventing drowsy driving by:

  • Getting enough sleep! Most adults need at least 7 hours of sleep a day, while teens need at
    least 8 hours.
  • Developing good sleeping habits, such as sticking to a regular sleep schedule.
  • Talking to your physician about treatment options if you have a sleep disorder or if you feel
    sleepy during the day.
  • Avoiding alcohol and medications that make you sleep, especially before getting behind the wheel of a vehicle.


American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) Position Paper: “Confronting Drowsy Driving,”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Dangers of Drowsy Driving,”

OSHA Guidelines for Employers to Reduce Motor Vehicle Crashes, Do You Know When You’re Driving Drowsy?”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Dangers of Drowsy Driving,”

AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, Asleep at the Wheel: The Prevalence and Impact of Drowsy Driving, Nov. 2010,

National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA), Drowsy Driving and Automobile Crashes,

This information and any noted recommendations are advisory only: Chesapeake Employers’ Insurance Co. assumes no liability for identification or correction of conditions or hazards as the safety and health of employees remain the employer’s responsibility. Not all foreseeable hazards or conditions in need of correction, and not all possible controls to address them, may be listed. Use of all or part of this safety information does not relieve employers of their responsibility to comply with all current and applicable local, state and/or federal laws, regulations, and codes. While the information herein is believed to be current as of the date published, the reader should rely upon the most current standards as laws, codes, and regulations are updated frequently.


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