Driving while drowsy is a formula for disaster. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that each year 100,000 crashes are reported to police nationally in which drowsy driving or driver fatigue is a contributing factor. NHTSA estimates those crashes result in 1,550 deaths and 71,000 injuries.
In annual polls conducted by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), half of Americans consistently report that they have driven drowsy and about 20 percent admit that they have actually fallen asleep at the wheel in the previous year.
While falling asleep at the wheel is the most obvious example, drowsy driving can be as simple as not paying attention while driving. Warning signs of drowsy driving include difficulty keeping one’s eyes open, repeated yawning, wandering or disconnected thoughts, drifting from the driving lane, and failure to remember the last few miles driven.
The common strategies for avoiding drowsy driving, such as opening a window, turning on the air conditioning or playing loud music will not overcome fatigue, and caffeine offers only a short-term increase in driver alertness. The only effective countermeasure for drowsiness is to find a safe place to pull over for a rest or to sleep for the night. Bringing a passenger on long trips to provide company and share driving responsibilities is a good idea.