Eyes Wide Shut: One in Six Fatal Crashes Involve a Drowsy Driver

Nearly one in three drivers admit to driving drowsy in the past month 


Phoenix, Nov. 8, 2012. Driving while drowsy doesn’t sound deadly, but it all too often is. In recognition of Drowsy Driving Prevention Week (Nov. 12-18), AAA Arizona would like to alert motorists to the risks of this common, yet dangerous driving practice.

"Driving drowsy can have significant impacts on reaction time, vision impairment and lapses in overall judgment; effects similar to driving impaired,” said Linda Gorman, director of communications and public affairs for AAA Arizona. “Most drivers underestimate the risks of drowsy driving and overestimate their ability to deal with it—that’s a dangerous combination.”

The AAA Foundation recently analyzed data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) of the prevalence of this risky behavior:

  • Drowsy driving is one of the leading contributors to traffic crashes. One in six deadly crashes involves a drowsy driver.
  • Motorists understand the danger, but do it anyway. Eight out of 10 people view other drivers driving while drowsy as a serious threat to their safety, yet many admit to doing it themselves. In fact, 30 percent of drivers reported having driven in the past 30 days when they were so tired that they struggled to keep their eyes open.
  • Younger drivers are more likely to drive while drowsy. One in seven licensed drivers ages 16-24 admitted to having nodded off at least once while driving in the past year as compared to one in ten of all licensed drivers. In addition, drivers age 16-24 were more likely, by some 78 percent, to be drowsy at the time of the crash as drivers age 40-59.
  • One gender is guiltier than the other. Men (52 percent) were more likely than women (30 percent) to report having ever fallen asleep while driving; men (14 percent) were also more likely than women (8 percent) to admit having done so in the past year.

In support of the National Sleep Foundation’s Drowsy Driving Prevention Week®, which runs Nov. 12-18, AAA would like to offer the following tips to avoid driving drowsy:

  • Get plenty of sleep (at least seven hours) the night before a long trip.
  • Travel at times when you are normally awake, and stay overnight rather than driving straight through. Stop driving if you become sleepy; someone who is tired could fall asleep at any time.
  • Schedule a break every two hours or every 100 miles, even if you aren’t feeling fatigue.
  • Travel with a companion and take turns driving. Vehicles in which the driver was accompanied by a passenger were nearly 50 percent less likely to be involved in a drowsy driving-related crash, according to AAA data.
  • Avoid heavy foods or medications that cause drowsiness or other impairment.
  • Do not rely on caffeine to keep you awake. Individuals react to caffeine differently, and they also feel the effects at different times. Caffeinated beverages should never be used as a substitute for sleep.


For more information on drowsy driving, including the AAA Foundation’s brochure, How To Avoid Drowsy Driving, visit AAAFoundation.org. AAA is an advocate for the safety and security for the motoring public. For more information on the club’s advocacy efforts, visit www.aaa.com.


AAA Arizona, the Arizona affiliate of AAA, provides automotive, insurance and travel services to more than 825,000 Arizona members. Annually, AAA’s Roadside Assistance responds to more than 450,000 calls for help on Arizona roadways. The auto club also provides insurance, travel, auto repair, discounts and financial services to AAA members. Since its founding in 1927, AAA Arizona has been a leading advocate for the safety and security of all travelers.