Drowsy Driving Prevention Week is observed during the first full week of November, from November 5–11 this year. It’s time to raise awareness on this often overlooked issue and to consider ways to prevent the thousands of injuries and deaths caused by fatigued and sleepy drivers in the U.S. each year. Did you know that Drowsy Driving Prevention Week has been observed since 2008?
History of Drowsy Driving Prevention Week
Drowsy driving is the act of operating a vehicle while sleepy, and it can affect anyone who gets behind the wheel. The Legislative arm of the State of Florida designated the first week of September to Drowsy Driving Prevention Week to educate the public on the dangers and to remember eight-year-old Ronshay Dugans who was killed in 2008. Ronshay’s school bus was hit by a driver who had fallen asleep at the wheel.
However, the National Sleep Foundation holds Drowsy Driving Prevention Week on the first full week of November each year, the week following the end of Daylight Saving Time. According to a survey conducted by the foundation before Drowsy Driving Prevention Week was initiated, more than half of American adults reported that they consistently drive drowsy. 20% admitted to having fallen asleep behind the wheel in the previous year alone. These results highlight a major need for public enlightenment and awareness. The foundation identifies young adults between the ages of 16-25 as the most at risk, together with shift workers working long hours, commercial drivers, people with untreated sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea, and business travelers.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimated that over $12.5 billion in monetary losses, 71,000 injuries, and more than 1,550 deaths, are caused by drowsy driving crashes each year. The NHTSA has an ongoing collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and believes most crashes caused by drowsy driving occur between midnight and 6 a.m., or in the late afternoon. They conservatively estimate that young drivers who drive drowsy cause 100,000 police-reported crashes each year. In America, Uniform Commercial Citation are now issued to Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) drivers if it is discovered that they were tired or ill at the time of a crash. These drivers, who operate commercial buses carrying over 15 passengers, or trucks transporting goods or hazardous materials, must comply with federal and state regulations regarding sleep to make sure the roads are safe.
Drowsy Driving Prevention Week timeline
Through the Interstate Defense Highway Act, President Eisenhower develops an Interstate Highway System that brings an uptick in the number of American drivers.
At the very first National Truck and Bus Safety Summit in Kansas City, Missouri, Commercial Motor Vehicle driver fatigue was a major concern and declared the top priority for truck safety.
After six U.S. states enforce mandatory evasion of doctor-patient confidentiality to report sleep-deprived patients who drive, and 25 states make it optional, the American Medical Association endorses Physician Reporting.
Sleep deprivation is ruled a major cause in what remains the worst rail disaster of the 21st century, in which a passenger train traveling from Newcastle to London, collides with a Land Rover Defender crashing down onto the rail line, and is derailed into the path of an oncoming freight train.
An eight-year-old girl is killed when her school bus is hit by a drowsy driver, leading to the first State of Florida-instituted Drowsy Driving Prevention Week.
A Public Law is passed in the fall of 2013, requiring the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to undertake the formal rulemaking process in proposing guidelines for testing commercial drivers for sleep apnea.
Drowsy Driving Prevention Week FAQs
What are the seven warning signs for drowsy driving?
Constant yawning or an inability to keep your eyes open; skipping some seconds and not remembering driving the last few miles; getting too close to cars in front of you; missing signs or turns; having trouble keeping your head up; and drifting into other lanes, onto the ‘rumble strip,’ or onto the shoulder of the road.
Is drowsy driving against the law?
Although there are no laws targeted at drivers who doze off while driving, it may expose you to criminal or civil liabilities. If someone witnesses you looking fatigued behind the wheels, you may also be charged with reckless driving.
Is being tired like being drunk?
Research shows that not getting enough sleep affects your brain the same way drinking alcohol does. In both cases, the neurons respond slower, take longer, and send weaker signals.
What are three ways to prevent drowsy driving?
First, abstain from alcohol, painkillers, or sleeping aids, if you plan to drive. You may also avoid the road during times of the day when people are most vulnerable to drowsiness. Finally, improve your habits and practices surrounding sleep.
How to Observe Drowsy Driving Prevention Week
Don’t drive drowsy
Don’t do it. Drowsiness can cause major crashes leading to death or injury for the drivers, their passengers, and other road users.
Understand the danger
To observe Drowsy Driving Prevention Week, think deeply about the dangers of drowsy driving and avoid them. Read up about prevention measures and other traffic safety tips.
Champion the cause
Become a champion of crash prevention this Drowsy Driving Prevention Week. Lend your voice to educate other road users and increase the reach of the message. Use the hashtag #sleepfirst on social media to encourage people to put sleep first when it comes to driving.
5 Important Facts About Drowsy Driving
Enough sleep is the answer
Sleep has no true substitute, so if you’re struggling to stay awake while driving, pullover until you’re better rested because repeated sleep debts add up.
The 13th leading factor in fatal crashes
With 1,221 cases, drowsy driving accounts for 2.4% of fatal crashes in the U.S., according to the most recent data from the NHTSA.
Prescribed drugs are a threat
Antihistamines and other prescribed drugs can cause drowsiness and could have a similar effect to being intoxicated while driving.
Caffeine may not be enough
A severely sleep-deprived driver may not be able to prevent the brief losses of consciousness that can last up to four or five seconds by drinking coffee or energy drinks alone.
Teenagers are at risk
Data shows that many teens do not get enough sleep, and because they don’t have as much driving experience, are particularly vulnerable to drowsy-driving crashes.
Why Drowsy Driving Prevention Week is Important
It raises awareness for a major cause
An important reason why we observe Drowsy Driving Prevention Week is to highlight the dangers of driving while fatigued. The major danger is the loss of lives each year, with over 100,000 crashes caused by drowsy driving in the U.S. More awareness reminds people to take more precautions.
Preventive and curative measures are highlighted
This week-long holiday sensitizes people on how to manage fatigue in safe ways. Verifiable information will be more readily available, and the public will be reminded to seek medical advice for any sleep deficiency.
It encourages a work-life balance
Job stress is a major cause of sleep deprivation. The natural release of melatonin during nighttime affects late-night and third-shift workers as they drive home after a long shift. An active social nightlife also affects sleep patterns. This holiday reminds the public of some of the far-reaching results of such imbalances.
Drowsy Driving Prevention Week dates