November 8th, 2010
12:01 AM ET

Drowsy drivers threaten road safety

Two out of every five drivers say they've fallen asleep behind the wheel at some point, and more than a quarter of drivers responding to a survery admit being so sleepy that they've had trouble keeping their eyes open while driving in the previous month, according to a new study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

Researchers also found that one in 10 people reported falling asleep while driving within the past year.  The study was based in part on telephone surveys of 2,000 U.S. residents ages 16 and older last spring .
"I think the biggest mistake people make is that they underestimate how tired they are and they overestimate their ability to deal with it when they are driving," said Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of AAA Foundation, the research affiliate of AAA.

Crash data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) between 1999 and 2008 also were analyzed. Researchers estimate that drowsy driving was involved in about one in six- or 16.5 percent-  of fatal crashes and about one in eight- or 13 percent- of accidents requiring hospitalization, whether on the highway or on other roads. According to 2008 statistics from the NHTSA, 2.4 percent of fatal crashes involved a drowsy driver.

"The big thing is really attitude. We see, overall, in terms of driving safety, more of a complacency or an indifference where people seem to almost accept the fact that we will have tragedy on the nation's highways as the price we need to pay for the mobility we clearly enjoy in this country. Not only are they putting themselves at risk, but they're putting other people on the nation's highways at risk as well," Kissinger said.

He suggested rather than beginning a long road trip after a long day of work, getting a good night's sleep and starting out early the next morning.  "Apply common sense," he said. "If we're tired, we shouldn't start driving and if we are tired when we're driving, we should do whatever we can do to get off the road and get some rest."

soundoff (111 Responses)
  1. WWEFreak666

    My cousin passed away in March of 2007 in a car crash due to his best friend falling asleep on the wheel. My cousin was sleep in the car with four other men. The three men who were not driving (this includes my cousin) were all asleep at the time. Sadly, the driver ended up falling asleep as well. They should of made one simple choice and that was to stay at a cheap hotel or even pull on the side of the road to get some rest. I bet they regret it now. But it's too late. You can't change the past, only the future. This is a very serious Phenomenon. Now his best friend has to live with killing his friend (my cousin). He's turned to Alcohol and lives life in depression. The thing is, driving under the influence (alcohol and drugs) can be seen on TV as being bad... But where are the ads for driving under the influence of a lack of sleep? It's the same thing. Remember, the more lack of sleep, the more the effects become as if you were driving drunk. As one who has had to deal with the death of a loved one (my closest personal cousin) due to this very reason, I can tell you I wish I would see more ads and more things being done to stop this from happening. I never EVER wish for ANYBODY's family to have to go through what we went through. For 2 weeks we are all lost. We lost apart of ourselves. Our grief was similar to those who lose a loved one from a drunk driver. I seriously hope no one person ever has to go through this, sadly we don't live in a perfect world. R.I.P Jason 1983 – 2007

    November 8, 2010 at 04:30 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Richard Nelson

      Cool story, bro

      November 8, 2010 at 09:14 | Report abuse |
    • sleepatnight

      Most people feel they have to get to their destination no matter what. I have never forgotten one drive where I was falling asleep. I stopped to get a snack and stretch my legs, got back in the car and still was yawning. I just closed my eyes, and woke up 15 minutes later. That 15 minute nap was the smartest decision I made that day, and the rest of the drive was a breeze. I would probably have had a wreck without it.

      My condolences on your loss, keep using it to teach people not to push the limits when they are sleepy.

      November 8, 2010 at 10:28 | Report abuse |
    • Lioness

      I feel for you for your loss.

      November 8, 2010 at 10:30 | Report abuse |
    • traci

      i to have lost a loved one due the lack of sleep a 19 year old college student had.. he fell asleep and hit my grandmother head on.. she was in her late 70's... our family is doing a lot of research.. one thing that has really got our attention is maggie's law "new jersey" .. it has really blown my mind at all the things we have found.. nothing can bring her back.. but the worst thing is no one has even apologized to us .. not this 19 year old boy or none of his family.. i am very sorry for your loss..

      January 26, 2011 at 21:05 | Report abuse |
  2. usafirefly

    Give another law for us all to carry the burden for. a DWS Yes!!! Driving While Sleeping

    November 8, 2010 at 05:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. tapu

    After a long day of work, don't begin a road trip? I get the impression he means you shouldn't start out for the Berkshires for that 2-week vacation until the next morning. Got that.

    Well, I drive 1-1/2 hours each way to work, 5 days a week. That's the reality of today's work commute for a lot of people. It's pretty hard not to get sleepy somewhere during that 3 hours/day, 15/week. I take precautions all around though:

    I definitely pull off at an exit and doze for 20 mins if I feel like my eyes could close. It hurts to lose that time, though. So I started concentrating on driving as safely as possible. I never go more than 10% over the speed limit. (Just doing the math can keep your brain awake) I keep assured clear distance and then some. (Sometimes I seem to be the only car on the road doing that.) I actually slow to 45 or whatever in work zones. I use my blinkers. I try to find the smoothest, safest way to yield, stop, and turn.

    The focus makes it easier to stay alert. (It feels a lot more like a driving video game, where you actually think about what you're doing and try to improve.) AND I get to feel quietly superior when maniacs speed past me and then have to hit their brakes because they're going faster than the cars in front of them. 🙂 So far, so good.

    November 8, 2010 at 06:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Travis

      same here. 90 minute commute on a 2 lane country highway. I eat grapes – LOTS of grapes. Some mornings I spend in the bathroom at work sick from eating so many but it's a small price to pay when it comes to staying awake.

      I also stay alert by concentrating on fuel efficiency. My car indicates how quickly i'm using gas so I can play the game of increasing fuel efficiency when driving to/from work.

      November 8, 2010 at 08:14 | Report abuse |
    • tapu

      Oo, Travis, I need a car with that feature!

      But hey, man, you ought to cut those grapes in two first. Less chance of choking. (Or maybe I'm carrying this safety thing just a little too far.)

      November 8, 2010 at 12:53 | Report abuse |
  4. Lisa Goff

    Working 12 hour shifts at night as a Nurse was always hard on me, plus an hour to hour and a half commute home. You start pumping yourself with coffee to make it home. 8 hour shifts wouldn't be so hard, but no one considers that.

    November 8, 2010 at 06:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Carol

      This assumed that all sleepy people are taking trips, wrong. I am also a nurse working night shift. Thirty minutes to the ferry, 15 min on the ferry (lulls you to sleep), then only 5 miles to my house. The 5 miles is where I am the sleepiest, I hate to admit it but I ran off the road this w/e because I hadn't even realized my house had closed. I plan to call my husband now and tell him I can't make it, come get me.

      November 8, 2010 at 09:57 | Report abuse |
  5. proskuneo10

    This is what I do fall asleep behind the wheel:

    1. Hear loud music that I know and like (so I can sing along).
    2. Chew gum
    3. Drink sips of water every 2-3 minutes
    4. Count the cars that I pass and subtract the ones that pass me
    5. Drive barefoot

    Hope this help...

    November 8, 2010 at 06:51 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Andrew

      I agree on all but one suggestion: driving barefoot can be very dangerous. You lack the control you have with your shoes on.

      November 8, 2010 at 08:35 | Report abuse |
    • Barefoot

      I drive barefooted and have been for years. I have a better feel of the car's mechanics when driving barefoot than I do with shoes on. I don't see how it can be dangerous unless there was twisted metal involved.

      November 8, 2010 at 10:01 | Report abuse |
    • MrsFizzy

      Hmm I'm not sure about the barefoot thing – if it works for you, OK. What about those reflexology massage sandals – not only would your feet be cold but they'd keep poking them, might help keep you awake!

      November 8, 2010 at 14:50 | Report abuse |
    • scisoco

      I agree. I play games in my head on long trips. Try to solve odd math problems like trying to guess how many MPG I will get or if I continue at X speed, what time will I get to my destination.

      November 8, 2010 at 14:53 | Report abuse |
  6. proskuneo10


    November 8, 2010 at 06:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Jeff

    Maybe we should just make it against the law. That'll solve it. Along with banning toys in happy meals will be the difference between a child being healthy or not.

    November 8, 2010 at 06:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • MrsFizzy

      The idea should be driving while impaired in any way – by fatigue, alcohol, drugs, distracted by texting etc. The problem is no one will admit when they are impaired, the proof of that comes when it's too late!

      November 8, 2010 at 14:51 | Report abuse |
  8. proskuneo10

    This is what I do:
    1. Hear loud music that I like and know to sing along
    2. Drive barefoot
    3. Chew gum
    4. Drink sips of water every 2-3 minutes
    5. Talk to somebody about something interesting for me (call somebody I'm alone)
    6. Cold A/C
    7. Count the cars I pass and subtract the ones that pass me

    Hope this helps...

    November 8, 2010 at 06:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • CoffeeClue

      Chew sunflower seeds. Works like magic, better than any coffee.

      November 8, 2010 at 08:17 | Report abuse |
    • Will

      My friend taught me a little trick if you want to stay wide awake while driving late at night: Hold your wallet out the window. The thought of that is enough to perk you up!

      November 9, 2010 at 08:43 | Report abuse |
  9. Tom

    About three weeks ago, I fell asleep at the wheel and hit a parked car at about 30 MPH. Thank God there was no one injured. This was at 4 PM on a sunny clear day, and I was just a block away from home. My family has convinced me to have a sleep study done to deal with insomnia and possible sleep apnea. Meanwhile, I have resumed attendance at church.

    November 8, 2010 at 07:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Johnny

    I remember this one time I was so tired I had to drive with my head out the window like a dog, 60+ mph, 45 degrees for 10+ miles.

    I'm surprised the number of auto fatalities from falling asleep isn't 50%+. I think most of those that crashed and died while being intoxicated (or under the influence of drugs) actually crashed because they fell asleep. The drug and or alcohol may have made them more drowsy, thus making it difficult to stay awake... and ultimately die from falling asleep.

    November 8, 2010 at 07:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. kim-NC

    Wow! This really hits home for me. I am a paper carrier and I work from 2am to about 7am every day. I worry a lot about people who are driving at this time of day who are not accustomed to being awake at this time and could endanger MY life! Myself? I have fallen asleep at the wheel several times unfortunately. Mostly when I was doing the paper route plus a daytime job for extra money. I just couldn't handle the lack of sleep so I quit the daytime job and I rarely get drowsy when I drive now. If I do find myself getting sleepy it helps to eat some snack food like peanuts or pretzels. Also helps to call my hubby, who is a paper carrier too. There is nothing scarier than waking up behind the wheel in the wrong lane. Be careful everyone.

    November 8, 2010 at 07:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. MannyHM

    Sleepy enough to be dangerous ? Stop in a safe rest or service area. There's no substitute for that.

    November 8, 2010 at 07:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Bob

    Idiots at it again saying if I can do it you can do it. They don't realize genetic differences and past environmental experiences effect peoples actions and behaviors. But the perfect people will be old and wrinkly one day and will depend on Depends.

    November 8, 2010 at 07:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. JR

    Driving barefoot? Isn't that illegal?

    November 8, 2010 at 08:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. workingschmo

    Very simple – pull off the road and get some sleep at a rest area or shopping mall. Carry a blanket and pillow in your car (no joke) like I do to make your rest as comfortable as possible. Even if you doze off for 15 minutes that should refresh you enough to put in a couple of hours on the road at least. It is my secret weapon as I drive a lot for my job and personal life.

    Even better would be to work a nap into your daytime schedule whenever you can. The health benefits are numerous besides the obvious not-killing-yourself-behind-the-wheel-thing.

    The talking on the cell thing works too – of course that has its own problems – but if you have to stay awake it's probably safer to do so. Of course, hands free is optimal.

    November 8, 2010 at 08:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Kevin

    I have on trick I learned by mistake. Put eye drops in and roll your window down a bit. The water evaporating on your eyes will keep you awake for a good 30 minutes. When they wear off just put more in. I also keep one of those 5 hour energy drinks in my car at all times just in case. The combo is unbeatable.

    November 8, 2010 at 08:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Lisa

    Just the other day I realized I was super sleepy while driving. This is rare for me. Looking back I should have pulled over but I was close to home (5-10 min away) and so I turned the cold air on myself, tried to force myself to be alert and other things. No smart. Thanks for this article.

    November 8, 2010 at 08:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Dr Bill Toth

    Stimulants yes you bet, but common sense the best thing yet. Pulling over, walking for a few minutes and or taking a nap
    are simple effect techniques that really work. Live With Intention, DrBillToth.com/blog

    November 8, 2010 at 08:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Matthew Norris

    It would have been interesting if the report had been broke down by types of drivers; as in Private (civilian) drivers and Professional (Over The Road) drivers. I have to say that all the advise given is well and good for we, the "four-wheeler" population, but what about the commercial drivers? Sometimes it just isn't possible to stop and take a cat nap when you are running four or five hour behind schedule because of traffic or screwups, and still have two state to go through the get your load to the customer on time. Soooo, do some creative math on you log and drive for 14 hours instead of the 11 your are legally suppose to.

    November 8, 2010 at 08:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mr. Davidson

      As,a commercially licensed driver of tractor trailers,you are instructed that actual rest is the only thing that safely works. I've found that a good hour of rest can prevent falling asleep and its proven to be the only thing that can. True the freight dispatchers will attempt to push you to the limit,some drivers will argue over the limit,which can not only put your job in danger but others as well.

      November 8, 2010 at 09:53 | Report abuse |
  20. Gail

    Perfect solution: I do this every morning when the alarm clock goes off and I am completely unable to wake up and "function" without caffeine. When the alarm goes off I pop a caffeine pill ("NoDoz" brand or any drugstore brand will do). I lie there and within 10 minutes I'm wide awake and jump out of bed, ready to go with lots of energy. I never need to drink coffee, either. So, simply keep a water bottle and caffeine pills on you. Quicker than taking the time to drink a cup of coffee. Works like magic.

    November 8, 2010 at 08:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. larrywi

    All the responses I see to this blog are related to "how not to fall asleep while driving" but not one gets to the meat of the matter, which is this, if you are so frigging tired why in the world would get behind the wheel!! Instead of wasting your time with gimmics to try and fight off the sleep, why not simply get your rest/sleep before getting in the car. It's a no brainer people!

    November 8, 2010 at 08:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Alec Eiffel

      It's not a no-brainer. 99% of the time I get sleepy on the road, I begin my commute feeling perfectly rested.

      November 8, 2010 at 09:23 | Report abuse |
  22. military

    maybe the military should get a clue when you wake up at 5am, go to work all day, then they put you on staff duty all night, then they have you come back to work until 6pm or later so you've just been up for at least 36 hrs or more straight and you're supposed to drive home after that.

    November 8, 2010 at 08:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Travis in Md.

      It is not necessarily the military, it is your commander or whomever is abusing this practice. I spent 12 yrs. in the corps very recently and experienced it. It is your right and responsibility to utilize the chain of command to request accomadations or a change in policy to prevent a fatality. Just mention fatality and negligence in the same sentence and it will draw attention. It is their responsibility to ensure your safety is ensured. You cannot recieve punitive actions due to reporting an unsafe practice.

      November 8, 2010 at 10:10 | Report abuse |
  23. Jason

    If I have a long drive ahead of me I make sure I have three things always with me. The list is....Roll up a really fat joint, grab my IPOD and get a cup of coffee. Yes that's right. A joint with some really good music will easily keep you awake and entertained for a good long while. This is from Jersey....not California.

    November 8, 2010 at 09:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Alec Eiffel

    If people only knew that a quick 15 minute nap is all that is needed, then more would pull over to a wayside or the nearest exit and rest their eyes. I do this all the time and it really does work.

    November 8, 2010 at 09:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Bill

    very simple cars can and should drive for you

    November 8, 2010 at 09:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Muhammad, DC

    It hapnd to me once when in coleage, I slept for a second, when I realized what had happened I was so shoked. That was 20 years ago, but since then whenever I felt sleepy I stopped at the next exit and toke a power nape for 30 minutes. usually that helped and enabled me to drive another 90 minutes.

    November 8, 2010 at 09:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Anne

    I once had a job that required me to drive an hour east in the morning and then, of course, an hour west in the evening. I found that even though I was rested, driving into the sun put me to sleep. I quit the job as it was impossible to find an affordable place to live in that town and the driving into the sun was going to kill me and/or someone else.

    November 8, 2010 at 09:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Karen Brint

    So many people think it's no big deal to be a little tired and drive, but as someone who is deep affected by someone else's choice to do so, it can ruin lives. Dec. 28, 1993 I was hit head on by a driver who fell asleep at the wheel. He broke both my legs, he shattered my left arm, and it's only a miracle that he didn't kill me. I went from being out dancing with friends to intensive care and years of physical therapy. I've never danced again. My left leg is 2 1/2 inches shorter. My left arm has limited use. The other driver was working 10+ hours a day and going out with friends instead of sleeping and I paid the price. He got a ticket for improper lane usage, fled the state with his family, and that was that. I went from being 25 with the world a head of me to being handicapped, all because of one person's selfishness. I have a good life, but damn it, so days it's hard not to remember what it used to feel like to walk and move with ease.

    November 8, 2010 at 09:44 | Report abuse | Reply
    • traci

      i would like to express how your accident relates to my families recent loss.. my grandmother was killed by a 19 year old college student who fell asleep at the wheel.. he had posted on facebook the night before on how he was pulling an all nighter.. it really frustrates me that more laws are not made to make this a bad thing.. i would just like you to know you are someone who will be included in my prayers and i hope one day you get justice and the person who did this to you has to pay for their actions..

      January 26, 2011 at 21:14 | Report abuse |
  29. Stephie Steph

    I too felt like sleeping on the wheel once but I pulled into a gas station and slept there for an hour and drove home-it made all the difference!
    My cousin once drove with me in her car and she fell asleep on the wheel and almost killed us. We ran off the road on the right side of the highway and when she realized what was happening, she counter acted and we ended up going backwards back on the interstate and went in backwards on the left side...we were sooooo unimaginably lucky that night – we ended up in a big ditch with no injuries and was able to pull out of the ditch and back on the road without even blinking...One of the scariest experiences of my life!!!!!!!
    In 2005, I lost my brother in a car accident, they said that he might have fell asleep at the wheel, I think otherwise. We still miss him of course but he never got a chance to meet his unborn son that was born 7 months after his death. 🙁
    My parents always let people stay over if they thought it was dangerous to drive and always taught us to park the car and rest for a while even if we felt a little drowzy.

    November 8, 2010 at 09:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Mr. Davidson

    I might add ,as a professional driver of 18 wheelers ,many states are closing rest stops leading to an already vastly overburdened parking area problem. Today if you don't get in and get parked before dark you will most definitely be searching desperately for a place to pull your rig over.

    November 8, 2010 at 09:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Travis in Md.

    I have read all of the above responses and interestingly none of them are a sure bet. I work 12 hour swing shifts. So at 7am on the Baltimore beltway as traffic is moving slow I am nodding off. I have tried coffee, stimulants, nicotine, music, A/C, windows down a pin to the thigh all to no avail. Actually my Dr. put me on Nuvigil and it worked fine however my work suffered and simple calculations came out innaccurate. So............ any other ideas?
    I agree pull over take a nap rest etc... However the brain when it is exhausted doesn't allow us to make these decisions. My commute is 45 min and when I am capable pull over in a home depot parking lot and sleep for 2 hours. This presents two dangers which i am aware of 1) carbon monoxide poisoning in the winter 2) being mugged or robbed (Baltimore).

    November 8, 2010 at 10:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Steve

      Your 45 minute drive can become a 28 minute drive if you were to drive faster. The excitement of speed and breaking the law can cause an adrenaline rush for any drive. I used to have the same problem as you until I said "F-it" and turned a 5 hour car ride into a 3 hour joy fest. I even did a east coast to west coast (US) drive in 36 hours driving nonstop and no stimulants using this method.

      November 8, 2010 at 10:17 | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      opps... I see you mentioned traffic is at a slow crawl... ignore my method, it doesn't apply in this situation 🙂

      November 8, 2010 at 10:19 | Report abuse |
  32. Sleep

    I've fallen asleep at a stoplight once... true story!

    November 8, 2010 at 10:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. zen

    The state of the workplace today is causing a lot of this. Employees are stressed, pushed into longer and longer hours with further commutes. If I'm late because I stopped for a nap, or too tired to work efficiently, I'll get fired by the same callous executives that pocketed my tax dollars as federal bailout money. I'm too stressed to sleep at night, and too exhausted for my long morning commute. When I take medication to help fall asleep at night, I risk being under it's influence for the morning drive. We're literally working our lower class to death.

    November 8, 2010 at 10:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Kyaru

    I just stop by a gas station and grab 2 5 hour energy's and a red bull and I am good to go.

    November 8, 2010 at 10:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. S Leuck

    When I was a kid working in a gas station in Goleta, CA during the mid 70's I learned something really frightening about sleeping and driving. A nearby research company that used to bring their vehicles in regularly had a couple of vans that had all kinds of high-tech gear centered around the driver including cameras. I got into a conversation with one of them about what it was all about and learned that they were doing studies on the effects of sleep on driving. Here's the truly frightening part,... the researcher told me that the absolutely scariest part of his job was when a driver would fall into REM (rapid eye movement) sleep and he was not supposed to wake him or take control of the vehicle unless they were literally running off the road. From what I remember about sleep stages is that REM is the deepest part of sleep and the part when we dream. I was aghast and asked him how frequently this happened. He said it happened all the time. Since I have a brother who nearly died in a sleep related car accident and still carries steel rods in his body to remember it I vowed I would never allow myself to drive sleepy. I've had some close calls over the years but when it gets to a certain point I either pull over to sleep in a rest area or find a place to stay the rest of the night. The danger to ourselves is obvious but we are also a danger to scores of innoncent people too.

    November 8, 2010 at 10:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Valerie

    My son was critically injured, and a young woman killed, 3 1/2 years ago when the friend who was driving my son's car fell asleep at the wheel. He was driving because my son, an hour or so earlier, had determined he was too tired to drive, and his friend said, "I've been napping, I'm fine to drive" – Only a couple of exits from home, he joined the other 3 in the car in falling asleep – drove off the highway into a bunch of oak trees.

    There is so much press about drinking and driving, doing drugs and driving, texting while driving... but VERY minimal information on drowsy driving, which, as shown in the statistics in this article, results in very likely just as many injuries and deaths as the other offenses. But, as we found out, there is no law against driving while drowsy – the driver of my son's car didn't get fined, no jail time, no loss of license, no community service – nothing. My son will most likely be in a wheelchair the rest of his life (he's 29), can't stand, can't walk, can't drive, can't work – and a family lost a beautiful 21 yr old daughter.

    Thankfully, we have found the P.A.R.T.Y. program (Preventing Alcohol and Risk-Related Trauma in Youth) – My son is part of a 4 person panel who share their stories of living with TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) with teenagers – the kids also see a car actually involved in a crash, hear from fire and police personnel, and do hands on activities to show them how difficult even the simplest of tasks are for those with TBI. We have also spoken to driver's ed classes and Health classes in our local high school.

    As my son says at the end of his talk to the teens "My whole life has been changed, due to someone's bad decision"

    November 8, 2010 at 10:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • traci

      just doesnt seem fair.. how can our justice system not recognize this.. my grandmother was killed head on by a 19 year old college student who fell asleep at the wheel ;; all she was doing was going to get presents for her grandkids and now she is gone.. the more i read about this the more angry i get/

      January 26, 2011 at 21:19 | Report abuse |
  37. Suzanne

    Falling asleep while driving could be related to a medical condition, as well...

    My high school sweetheart's dad had narcolepsy, which made driving anywhere with him a terrifying experience.

    I think that anyone who finds themselves chronically falling asleep at the wheel should go to a doctor and get a sleep study done.

    November 8, 2010 at 11:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • MrsFizzy

      Is it legal for someone with narcolepsy to drive??

      November 8, 2010 at 14:48 | Report abuse |
  38. checkdent

    All this advices on how to keep yourself awake are just wrong. When you're sleepy you should go to sleep and not drive, under no circumstance. When accidents happen you're not going to blame the coffee that was not strong enough, the driver is the one to blame.


    November 8, 2010 at 12:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Afell

    Common sense, as it has been said, is not very common.

    If you are tired and face a long drive, consider alternatives to driving to your destination immediately, if it is possible. By tired, I mean that you could honestly sit down and within minutes be asleep. This involves a judgement issue, and just like with drinking alcohol some people have no ability to make judgement calls on themselves.

    If you are in a situation where you have a car full of people, and are expected to be the only one awake while driving, insist that whoever occupies the front passenger seat also remain awake to keep you engaged to the road. Safety is the most important part of a road trip. A lively conversation can often keep the mind stimulated more than enough to stave off drowsiness. I have had more than one heated political debate (and have defended viewpoints polar opposite to my own) just to keep the co-pilot talking to me.

    Power naps do work, but they will only work for about an hour at the most. Energy drinks sometimes work, but you will crash eventually. The only thing that truly works is a full eight hours of sleep.

    November 8, 2010 at 12:45 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Smart

      I never have felt comfortable napping while my husband (or anybody else) is driving. I feel like something will happen if I fall asleep and I'm not awake to prevent it. I guess that's the mom in me. I wish my husband felt the same way; when I drive, he falls asleep within five minutes. Boring for me.

      November 8, 2010 at 15:05 | Report abuse |
  40. JackieInDallas

    Recently, Mythbusters tested driving while sleepy vs. driving tipsy (not legally intoxicated but affected). They found driving sleepy was even more dangerous than driving tipsy - and this in a study where both people being tested were AWARE that they were sleepy and compensated for it! The truth is, most of the time we don't realize that our driving is compromised until we run into a curb or hit those little reflectors in the center line - or until we wake up in a ditch, or hit someone or something. While it is true that we shouldn't drive while intoxicated, sleepy, or while talking or texting, the fact is is that each and every one of us will, at some time, drive incapacitated in some way.

    The ONLY solution is to drive defensively, and to remember that compensation is a last-ditch approach and we should do what we can to AVOID needing to compensate!

    November 8, 2010 at 12:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • traci

      thanks jackie

      January 26, 2011 at 21:20 | Report abuse |
  41. foreign guy

    You all blame it on the horrible jobs you have. Why don't you either move or find a job closer to home? Preferably with shorter hours... Personally I think it is worth it to get by with a little less money if I have time to actually live, not just spend my best years in cars and offices all the time. Got a 15 minute ride to work outside rush hour, flexible hours, 40 hour week. I'll never be a millionaire, but I will also not suffer burn-outs, stress related depressions and all that crap. Easily worth the lesser amount of dollars. BTW, I used to do the 12-hour days + a couple of hours driving each day, until I started thinking about what really matters.

    November 8, 2010 at 13:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Glad you have all the answers...

      There's this little thing on called a recession. Ever heard of it? Some people are lucky to have the hourlong commutes they have, because the alternative is being unemployed.

      November 8, 2010 at 15:07 | Report abuse |
    • Anne

      Read my comment again. I DID QUIT MY JOB because I couldn't drive into the Sun and stay awake.

      November 8, 2010 at 18:03 | Report abuse |
  42. college girl

    My boyfriend fell asleep while driving my car back in June. He thought that doing "push-ups" before he got in the car would give him enough energy to drive 4 hours to his destination. However, I received a phone call around 3 am from his sister-in-law stating that he fell asleep and crashed my car. Luckily, he was not injured.

    November 8, 2010 at 13:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Bob

    One more reason to develop a network of high speed rails.. Less accidents..

    November 8, 2010 at 14:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. SAM

    In NJ, the commute are long. If you work in Central NJ or South NJ, you'll drive at least 45 minutes to get to your job. Most of the large employers are in Northwest Jersey. So if you want to eat, you'll have to drive and work the 50 hour weeks that the job demands. So your 45 -90 commute and your 10 hour work day, make it impossible to drive while you're awake. To avoid the traffic and make it to work at 8:30AM means leaving at 5:30 AM, just to avoid the rush hour. Leaving work at 6 PM will leave you exhausted with very little free time. I don't have answers . I have had 3 non-fatal car crashes in my 5 years of commuting. Now as my contracting job comes to an end, I'm faced with making the "long commute" vs "starvation" decision.

    November 8, 2010 at 16:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. scott

    I eat sunseeds when i have any driving to do. Cracking them and dealing with the shells keeps me awake. Used to do spree candy, but it got my

    November 8, 2010 at 16:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bubba

      Scott was making a turn at high speed while eating sunflower seeds and typing on his phone. We will miss him, but he wasn't drowsy.

      November 8, 2010 at 16:56 | Report abuse |
  46. neuroperson

    Wow, another vapid CNN fluffpiece. Shocker! Sleep Apnea is the most common cause of mortality/morbidity involving motor vehicle accidents, and not a word about it. As a matter of fact the Transportation authority does not even count accidents which occur during the day as possilby related to sleepiness, so even the "reliable" numbers are junk. But thanks CNN for not getting to the truth, the root of the problem, the causes, and the treatment. Typical

    November 8, 2010 at 16:29 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bubba

      If you think every 'drowsy driver' has sleep apnea, you may be a neuroperson.

      November 8, 2010 at 16:54 | Report abuse |
  47. Bubba

    Driving scares me. I would never fall asleep at the wheel.

    November 8, 2010 at 16:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Terry

    Hey how bout this America. Bring back decent, affordable, and safe public transportation. There are some other folks that do it, that we can learn from, like ALL of Europe. We are all too stuck on our cars

    November 8, 2010 at 17:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Pat V

    I've become drowsy on a home freeway commute often – we're talking 4 in the afternoon for a hour's drive – it's more like "highway hypnosis". I'm certainly not THAT fatigued at that time of day. I've wondered if it's more a syndrome than actually being "sleepy" and if anyone has made a study of day time driving fatigue.

    November 8, 2010 at 18:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Fred

    I've had this happen to me several times which is the reason I don't go to late movies with friends, I don't hang in the bars past midnight, why I've never been able to stay up overnight when I was younger. There is a natural occurance in the human body to shut down no matter how much outside stimulant or chemicals in the body is going on. People need to learn there is a breaking point not only for the body but the mind as well. I've fallen asleep behind the wheel before, and managed to keep myself on the road and luckily in the same lane. I've seen others who crashed doing the same thing. Just take care of yourself and realize it's ok to pull off to the side of the road if need be. I've tested for sleep apnea, narcolepsy, everything and nothing is conclusive. I've tried B Vitamins, Caffeine, Adrenaline, Energy Shots, nothing. Your brain just shuts down and your lucky if you end up making it home safe. I wish the local LEO's were more understanding but I've had them try to say I was drunk before, been fun proving them wrong.

    November 8, 2010 at 18:55 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2

Leave a Reply to vach ve sinh


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.