It’s probably not a coincidence that Drowsy Driving Prevention Week® – which officially runs through Sunday – is timed for just after most Americans change their clocks for a return to standard time from Daylight Savings Time. Although the fall adjustment gives people an extra hour, it’s only for one night, and still leaves us struggling to cope with a new sleep schedule.

Driving while sleep-deprived is responsible for more than 6,400 U.S. deaths annually, according to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF). These fall asleep crashes are often caused by voluntarily not getting the sleep you need.

In addition to sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea and narcolepsy, many Americans simply do not allot enough time for sleep. Not only does insufficient sleep affect their health, performance, and general safety, it also affects a driver's ability to safely operate a motor vehicle.

Like alcohol, sleep deprivation impairs judgment and decision making, and drivers overestimate their ability to perform. Ironically, instead of slowing response times to preserve accuracy, sleep-deprived individuals often increase speed at the expense of making more mistakes (ie, become “fast and sloppy”) and take greater risks.

The NSF says impairment from sleep loss is comparable to that of alcohol intoxication with 24 hours of continuous wakefulness resulting in impairments in neurobehavioral performance similar to that induced by a blood alcohol concentration of 0.10 g/dL.

The NSF Drowsy Driving Consensus Working Group’s 2016 report published in Sleep Health Journal concluded that sleep deprivation renders motorists unfit to drive a motor vehicle. Specifically, healthy drivers who have slept for two hours or less in the preceding 24 hours are not fit to operate a motor vehicle. They further agreed that most healthy drivers would likely be impaired with only 3 to 5 hours of sleep during the prior 24 hours. 

NSF encourages everyone to prioritize sleep and drive when alert and refreshed. 

About the National Sleep Foundation

The NSF is dedicated to improving health and well-being through sleep education and advocacy. Founded in 1990, the NSF is committed to advancing excellence in sleep health theory, research and practice. 


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