Study: More than 37 million US motorists drive drowsy at least once a year

A new survey suggests that every year, millions of motorists in the United States operate a vehicle when they are too tired to drive.

Tthe National Sleep Foundation last week released results of a new survey highlighting attitudes and behaviors toward drowsy driving. It showed that, while 95% of Americans believe drowsy driving is risky, more than 37 million motorists are estimated to drive drowsy at least once a year.

The National Sleep Foundation is an independent nonprofit group that advocates for “improving health and well-being through sleep education,” according to its website.

Drowsy driving is linked to over 300,000 police-reported crashes, over 100,000 injuries, and over 6,000 deaths in the U.S. each year, according to the report.

The study says that among drivers who see driving drowsy as very risky, around 63% of them have done it anyway.

Also, 16% of drivers surveyed say they are “overly confident” in their ability to drive after sleeping only two hours or less the previous night.

How many hours of sleep should you be getting before getting behind the wheel?

For adults under the age of 65, drivers who get at least seven to nine hours of sleep, recommended by NSF, are less likely to be drowsy when they drive.

“Drowsy driving is impaired driving,” said Joseph Dzierzewski, vice president of research and scientific affairs for the National Sleep Foundation.

“We see that while most Americans believe drowsy driving is risky, they still drive when not fully alert. The good news is — drowsy driving is preventable.”

In addition to getting those needed hours of sleep, the NSF says to get a driving companion for long trips, schedule regular stops (every 100 miles or two hours) for your trip, and watch for signs that you may be driving while drowsy, including frequent blinking, yawning or having difficulty with controlling your lane and speed.

Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk started working at WTOP in 2016 and has lived in Howard County, Maryland, her entire life. She's thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP telling stories on air. She works as both a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and D.C. areas. 

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