The Dangers Falling Asleep While Driving And Drowsy Driving Laws

Feb 22, 2018

60% Of Drivers Fall Asleep At The Wheel

Falling Asleep While Driving

Many of us are guilty of drowsy driving. Driving tired is something we do all the time. We’re tired after a long day at work. We drive home late at night after a busy day. Some of you drive for a living.

But did you know drowsy driving can be just as dangerous as texting or drinking and driving?

It’s estimated that 60% of drivers have gotten behind the wheel when feeling drowsy. A staggering one-third of people have actually fallen asleep at the wheel!

Drivers underestimate the effects of driving while tired. Drowsy driving needs to be taken seriously. Here we take a look at this important driving safety topic, outline the dangers of drowsy driving, laws, facts, and methods for prevention.

What Is Drowsy Driving?

Drowsy driving, also referred to as tired driving or fatigued driving, is the operation of a vehicle when you are too tired to remain alert behind the wheel. Driving while tired impacts your ability to focus, it impairs your decision making and can impact your ability to react. Lack of sleep is a major cause of auto accidents.

Why Is Drowsy Driving Dangerous?

Driving while tired impacts your ability to drive. It is dangerous and a risk to you and other drivers because it affects :

  • Reaction times
  • Decision making
  • Your ability to focus
  • Coordination and motor skills
  • Judgement
  • Depth perception

Drowsy Driving Facts

Falling Asleep While Driving Ticket

Not convinced driving while tired is a serious road safety issue? Check out these drowsy driving stats and facts :

  • Drowsy driving is related to at least 100,000 motor vehicle crashes and more than 1,500 deaths per year in the U.S. alone.
  • 1 in 3 drivers have fallen asleep at the wheel. Of those who have nodded off, .13% said they do so at least once per month.
  • .15% of Canadian drivers have fallen asleep at the wheel in the past year.
  • 72.3% of Ontario drivers have taken to the roads while fatigued.
  • .4% of drivers admitted they had an accident because they dozed off.
  • Men are more likely to drive drowsy than women.
  • Adults 18-29 are more likely to drive drowsy.

Don’t Underestimate The Impact Of Driving Tired

People don’t take driving while drowsy as seriously as impaired or distracted driving. Is it the lack of attention on the subject? Is it overshadowed by impaired driving and texting and driving?

Drivers don’t think twice about feeling extremely tired while driving. They press on instead of taking a break on long drives. And many drive when they shouldn’t.

Since there is no test for drowsy driving, it can be difficult to know when you are too tired to drive. But there are warning signs to indicate when you should consider taking a break or not driving.

What Are The Warning Signs Of Tired Driving?

Here are the common warning signs that you may be too tired to drive :

  • Yawning
  • Heavy eyelids and head nodding
  • Trouble keeping your eyes open
  • Trouble focusing
  • Wandering thoughts
  • Trouble remembering the last few kilometres driven

How Does Lack Of Sleep Affect Driving?

Drowsy Driving Law

Here are some of the effects of drowsy driving on your ability to drive:

  • Drifting out of your lane: Veering in and out of your lane. Trouble staying in your lane.
  • Missed exits : Missing turns.
  • Road signs : Missing stop signs, traffic lights and other traffic signs.
  • Inconsistent speed : Speed continuously increasing and decreasing.
  • Speeding : Driving above the speed limit. Failure to adjust speed to speed limits.
  • Stopping issues : Sudden braking and stopping close to other vehicles.

If you experience any of these signs, consider taking a break, switching drivers, or getting some sleep before driving.

Risk Factors - Who Is Most Likely To Drive Drowsy?

Some drivers are at higher risk than others to drive while tired :

  • Poor sleep habits : People who do not get enough sleep tend to have issues focusing.
  • Professional drivers : People who drive for a living, such as commercial drivers, spend long hours on the road.
  • Shift workers : Working odd hours can impact tiredness.
  • Sleep disorders : People with sleep disorders regularly operate tired.
  • Medication : People on medication may experience sudden drowsiness.
  • Adults with children at home : Parents often have a sleep deficit.

Driving While Drowsy Is Responsible For What Percentage Of Fatal Collisions?

What Is Drowsy Driving

It is estimated that approximately 20% of fatal collisions involve driver fatigue. That’s 1 in 5 collisions. Many other non-fatal collisions involve drivers who exhibit the signs of drowsy driving.

Drowsy Driving vs. Drunk Driving

Just how dangerous is drowsy driving? Many experts suggest driving while tired can have the same or similar impairment effect as alcohol.

According to the National Sleep Foundation :

“Drowsy driving is dangerous because sleep deprivation can have similar effects on your body as drinking alcohol. Being awake for 18 hours straight makes you drive like you have a blood alcohol level of .05 (for reference, .08 is considered drunk). If you’ve been awake for a full 24 hours and drive—say, after a night where you just couldn’t fall asleep—it’s like you have a blood alcohol level of .10.”

Both types of impairment make it difficult for drivers to focus on driving and negatively impacts the speed and accuracy of a driver’s decision making capabilities.

Drowsy Driving Laws In Canada

There are currently no specific laws related to driving while tired in Canada. However, the impact of driving while tired can cause you to take actions on the road that are punishable by law.

Is It Illegal To Drive Drowsy?

No. It is not illegal to drive drowsy. There is no testing tool to assess a driver’s level of tiredness.

Is it Against The Law To Drive While Tired?

Even though the dangers are well documented, it is not against the law to drive while tired. However, it is strongly discouraged.

The government has invested in legislative acts and awareness campaigns in an attempt to educate drivers about the dangers of fatigued driving.

If Feeling Tired While Driving, Use These Drowsy Driving Safety Tips

Driving When Tired

Feeling tired while driving happens. Here are some things you can do to stay safe and focused :

  • Take a break : Pull over at the next rest stop, get out of the car, stretch your legs, and re-focus.
  • Take a nap : Pull over where it’s safe and have a 30-minute nap to recharge.
  • Switch drivers : Taking turns driving will help both drivers stay fresh and alert.
  • Get a cup of coffee : It will provide you with a good short term burst of energy.
  • Keep cool : Keep the temperature cool in your vehicle.
  • Keep moving : Move your eyes and check your mirrors regularly.

Common But Ineffective Tactics To Stay Awake While Driving

People will try almost anything to stay awake while driving. Rather than stopping and taking a break, they will try other ineffective tactics. The following do NOT work to keep you awake when driving :

  • Opening the windows
  • Cranking the air conditioner
  • Turning up the music/singing
  • Taking energy stimulants (these have short term effects)

Drowsy Driving Prevention Tips

Being proactive is the key to avoiding driving while fatigued. Here is how to prevent drowsy driving :

  • Get a full night’s sleep : Make sure you get 7 or more hours of sleep before a long drive.
  • Plan your road trip effectively : Plan out rest stops and travel so you can take frequent breaks.
  • Listen to your body : If you are feeling really tired, reconsider driving.
  • Avoid anything that makes you tired : Avoid medications, alcohol, food and drinks that make you tired.
  • Stop regularly : Take frequent rest stops every couple of hours.
  • Avoid driving late at night : If possible, avoid driving during times when you would normally be sleeping.
  • Take a nap before driving : If you have a long drive ahead of you, take a nap beforehand.
  • Eat smart : Drinking water and having light snacks during your trip will help keep you energized.

You can play a key role in keeping our roads safe. If you feel the effects of drowsy driving, pull over and take a break.

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