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Study: Almost 1 Out of 3 Drivers Admits to Drowsy Driving in Past Month

November 09, 2011

WILMINGTON, DE — Nearly all drivers (96 percent) feel drowsy driving is an unacceptable behavior, yet almost a third (32 percent) admitted driving when they were so tired that they had difficulty keeping their eyes open in the past month, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s 2011 safety culture survey. 

A study released last year by the AAA Foundation found that one of every six deadly crashes and one in eight crashes causing serious injury involved a drowsy driver. This is substantially higher than previous estimates, confirming the suspicions of researchers that the impact of drowsy driving on motor vehicle crashes, injuries, and deaths has been greatly underestimated.

 "Although the vast majority of drivers recognize the serious threat of drowsy driving, a ‘Do as I Say, Not as I Do’ attitude exists when getting behind the wheel. Drowsy driving kills, just as sure as drunk, drugged and distracted driving does," said AAA Foundation President and CEO Peter Kissinger. "Drivers have a tendency to underestimate the impact being tired has on their driving ability, which puts themselves and others at risk."

In recognition of this year's Drowsy Driving Prevention Week hosted by the National Sleep Foundation, the AAA Foundation and AAA are trying to raise awareness among all drivers of the seriousness of drowsy driving.

Recent AAA Foundation research on drowsy driving found that two out of every five drivers (41 percent) admit to having fallen asleep at the wheel at some point, with one in 10 saying they had done so in the past year. 

"What's so alarming is that over half of these drivers reported having fallen asleep while driving on high‐speed roads," said Jake Nelson, AAA's director of traffic safety advocacy and research. "These data underscore the importance of educating drivers about the dangers of drowsy driving."

For more than two decades, the National Sleep Foundation has worked to raise drowsy driving awareness and related education.

"It is shocking to consider that nearly a third of drivers admit to operating a vehicle in the last month while drowsy," said David Cloud, CEO of the National Sleep Foundation. "We applaud AAA’s work to call attention toward this important public safety issue."

Warning signs of sleepiness include, but are not limited to:

  • Having difficulty keeping your eyes open and focused, and/or having heavy eyelids
  • Difficulty keeping your head up
  • Drifting from your lane, swerving, tailgating and/or hitting rumble strips
  • Inability to clearly remember the last few miles driven
  • Missing traffic signs or driving past your intended exit
  • Yawning repeatedly and rubbing your eyes
  • Feeling irritable or restless.

To remain alert and prevent a fall-asleep crash, AAA offers these tips:

  • Get plenty of sleep (at least seven hours) the night before a long trip
  • Stop driving if you become sleepy; someone who is tired could fall asleep at any time – fatigue impacts reaction time, judgment and vision, causing people who are very sleepy to behave in similar ways to those who are drunk
  • Travel at times when you are normally awake, and stay overnight rather than driving straight through
  • Schedule a break every two hours or every 100 miles
  • Drink a caffeinated beverage. Since it takes about 30 minutes for caffeine to enter the bloodstream, find a safe place to take a 20‐ to 30-minute nap while you’re waiting for the caffeine to take effect
  • Travel with an awake passenger.

For more information on drowsy driving, including the foundation's brochure, "How To Avoid Drowsy Driving," visit

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