Common characteristics in drowsy driving accidents

Time of day

Statistic show most accidents occur between midnight and 8:00a.m. If you drive during these hours be especially cautious.

Single driver

Research has shown 82% of reported fall-asleep/drowsy crashes involved someone driving alone.

No attempt to avoid accidents

Because a drowsy or asleep diver may close his or her eyes, a common finding is the driver did not seem to avoid the crash. Because of this a high percentage of drowsy driving accidents result in fatality.

Young male drivers

In studies of fall-sleep accidents, 55% of these drivers were 25 or younger. Seventy-five percent of those drivers were male.

Shift workers, business travelers, others experiencing circadian rhythm disorders

Shift workers (people who work evening or night shifts) are always trying to sleep when their bodies want to be awake, and to work when their bodies want to sleep.

For this reason, they may suffer from body clock (circadian rhythm) disorders. Business travelers, especially those traveling across time zones, also have trouble adjusting to a schedule that differs from their bodies’ natural pattern.

Any of these circumstances can cause lack of sleep, or poor sleep quality. This can result in excessively sleepy drivers, who may have far less alertness for the task of driving.

Drivers suffering from acute sleep deprivation

People who have acute sleep deprivation have been awake many hours (e.g., working all day and then making a trip that same night). This lack of sleep has a serious impact on their ability to pay attention and react while driving.

One study showed drivers awake for 15 or more hours had four times the risk of a drowsy driving accident. If the driver had been awake for 20 hours or more, the risk of crashing increased by 30 times.

Drivers suffering from untreated sleep disorders

Drivers who have untreated or undiagnosed Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), Narcolepsy or other sleep disorders are at greater risk of drowsy driving crashes.

If left untreated, sleep disorders rarely allow the person to get enough restful sleep. Because of this the most common symptom of sleep disorders is daytime sleepiness.

Studies show that drivers with untreated or undiagnosed OSA are two to seven times more likely to have a drowsy driving crash.

For more information on sleep disorders, see you primary care provider and ask for a referral to a Board Certified Sleep Medicine Specialist.

Medications and alcohol

Certain over the counter and prescription medications may cause you to be drowsy.

These medications have a warning label that cautions you against driving because the medication can affect your ability to pay attention and react quickly.

These medications include: sleeping pills, narcotic pain pills, some antidepressants, tranquilizes, some high blood pressure pills, cold or cough liquid or tablets and muscle relaxants.

Alcohol naturally makes you sleep; alcohol alone can cause a crash. However, combined with drowsiness, its effects are multiplied. Alcohol combined with sleepiness decreases mental and physical alertness.

Sleep Center