Asleep at the Wheel: The Prevalence and Impact of Drowsy Driving

Studies have documented operator drowsiness, fatigue, or sleepiness as contributing or causal factors in trucking, maritime, and aviation accidents. However, estimates of the prevalence of drowsy drivers on the road and of the proportion of motor vehicle accidents that involve drowsy drivers vary widely. This study presents new estimates of the prevalence of drowsy drivers on U.S. roads and of the proportion of traffic accidents that involve a drowsy driver. In a nationally representative telephone survey of U.S. drivers conducted in the spring of 2010, 41.0% of drivers admit to having “fallen asleep or nodded off” while driving at some point in their lives, including 11.0% within the past year and 3.9% in the past month. More than one in four drivers admits to having driven when they were “so sleepy that [they] had a hard time keeping [their] eyes open” within the past month. Detailed examination of data from a nationally-representative sample of traffic accidents that occurred between 1999 and 2008 and involved a passenger vehicle that was towed from the scene shows that 3.9 percent of all of those crashes, 7.7 percent of those that resulted in at least one person being admitted to a hospital, and 3.6 of those that resulted in death involved a driver who was described as drowsy. However, the attention status of 45% of the drivers in the data was unknown. The statistical technique of multiple imputation was used to take into account additional information about these drivers and the traffic accidents in which they were involved and to estimate the proportion of these drivers who were drowsy. Taking all of these drivers into account, an estimated 7.0% of all traffic accidents in which a passenger vehicle was towed, 13.1% of crashes that resulted in a person being admitted to a hospital, and 16.5% of fatal accidents involved a drowsy driver.


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Web
  • Features: Figures; References; Tables;
  • Pagination: 16p

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01321091
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS, ATRI
  • Created Date: Nov 19 2010 1:16PM