Thousands of crashes happen each year because drivers fall asleep. Learn the signs and risks for sleepy driving. Know what to do to stay alert and safe.
What Are the Signs of Sleepiness?
Are you too tired to drive? You should stop driving and get some sleep if you:
- Have problems keeping your eyes open and focused
- Nod and cannot keep your head up
- Daydream or have wandering, disconnected thoughts
- Yawn a lot or need to rub your eyes
- Find yourself drifting out of your lane or tailgating
- Miss road signs or drive past your turn
- Feel irritable, restless, and impatient
- Drift off the road and hit the rumble strip on the highway
Are You at Risk?
You have a higher risk for a sleep-related traffic accident if you:
- Work long hours
- Had 6 hours of sleep or less in the last 24 hours
- Drive between midnight and 6 am
- Often feel sleepy while driving
- Work the night shift
- Are a business traveler who drives a lot and suffers from jet lag
- Work more than one job
- Have an undiagnosed sleep disorder
Any of these risks can make you more likely to have a car accident.
Some medicines can cause sleepy driving even if taken the night before you drive. If you plan to drive, do not use medicines that could make you sleepy the next day.
What Can You Do?
To help prevent drowsy driving:
- Get between 7 to 9 hours of sleep daily.
- Schedule breaks every 100 miles that you drive—or every 2 hours during long trips.
- Travel with a friend to share driving and conversation.
- Do not use alcohol and sleep medicines.
Note: If you need coffee to stay awake, pull over and call it a night. Take a break from driving.
If you think you have a sleep disorder, talk to your doctor. Sleep disorders can be treated.
Driving when sleepy may be as dangerous as drunk driving. Keep yourself and others safe on the road.
AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety
Canada Safety Council
The Canadian Sleep Society (CSS)
Countermeasures. Drowsy Driving website. Available at: https://drowsydriving.org/about/countermeasures/. Accessed October 26, 2021.
Drowsy driving. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/drowsy_driving.html. Accessed October 26, 2021.
Facts and stats. Drowsy Driving website. Available at: https://drowsydriving.org/about/facts-and-stats/. Accessed October 26, 2021.
Wake up and get some sleep. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website. Available at: https://one.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/drowsy_driving1/human/drows_driving/index.html. Accessed October 26, 2021.
Last reviewed October 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Last Updated: 10/26/2021