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Be Wary of Drowsy Driving
last updated:
Fri, 1/18/2013 11:33 AM

  • Sleepiness can impair driving performance as much or more so than alcohol, studies show. (Dawson and Reid, 1997; Powell, 2001)
  • The American Automobile Association (AAA) estimates that one out of every six (16.5%) deadly traffic accidents, and one out of eight (12.5%) crashes requiring hospitalization of car drivers or passengers is due to drowsy driving. (AAA, 2010)
  • One analysis estimated the cost of automobile accidents attributed to sleepiness to be between $29.2 to $37.9 billion. (Leger, 1994)
  • (41%) admitted to having fallen asleep at the wheel at some point.; one in ten drivers (10%) reporting they did so within the past year. (AAA, 2010)
  • More than one-quarter of drivers (27%) admitting they had driven while they were “so sleepy that [they] had a hard time keeping [their] eyes open” within the past month (AAA, 2010)

Researchers estimate that more than 70 million Americans suffer from a sleep disorder. (Institute of Medicine, 2005) One of the most serious consequences of insufficient sleep is traffic accidents due to drowsy driving. A recent study by the American Automobile Association (AAA) estimates that one out of every six (16.5%) deadly traffic accidents, and one out of eight (12.5%) crashes requiring hospitalization of car drivers or passengers is due to drowsy driving. (AAA, 2010) One analysis estimated the cost of automobile accidents attributed to sleepiness to be between $29.2 to $37.9 billion. (Leger, 1994) Experts suspect that even these disturbingly high figures underestimate the number of accidents or near-miss accidents due to drowsy driving because of drivers being unaware or not admitting they were drowsy at the time of the accident, or police not acquiring that information.

The prevalent hazard of drowsy driving is underlined by the number of drowsy drivers that surveys reveal are still on the road. A recent AAA survey found that two out of every five drivers (41%) admitted to having fallen asleep at the wheel at some point, with one in ten drivers (10%) reporting they did so within the past year, and more than one-quarter of drivers (27%) admitting they had driven while they were “so sleepy that [they] had a hard time keeping[their] eyes open” within the past month.(AAA, 2010) In the National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep in America 2009 poll, more than half of adults (54%) reported they have driven at least once while drowsy in the past year, with almost a third (28%) reporting that they do so at least once per month.


If you believe you or your loved one may have a sleep disorder, consult your physician or contact the Methodist Sleep Disorders Center directly by calling 901-683-0044 to determine you best treatment option.

This information is provided by Methodist Healthcare and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition.
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Methodist Healthcare is an integrated health care delivery system, dedicated to the art of healing through our faith-based commitment to minister to the whole person. 1211 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee 38104 • (901) 516-7000

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