Heads Up! Are You Driving Drowsy?

drowsy driverYou’ve been driving for a while, alone, and start to yawn. Your eyes get heavy. Suddenly, your head snaps up and you realize you dozed off for a millisecond.

Think it can’t happen to you? Think again. Within any 30-day period, about one in 25 drivers over the age of 18 reports having fallen asleep while driving, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Drowsy Driving StatisticsMore fast facts about drowsy driving:

  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that drowsy driving leads to 100,000 police-reported crashes each year, resulting in 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries and a $12.5 billion cost to the economy.
  • Adults between 18 and 29 are the most likely to drive while drowsy (71% vs. 52% for 30- to 64-year-olds, or 19% for those aged 65 and over), according to the National Sleep Foundation.
  • People with children are more likely to drive while drowsy than people without children (59% vs. 45%).

6 ways to stay alert on the road—and keep safe:

  1. Sleep sufficiently. The National Sleep Foundation recommends getting between seven and nine hours of sleep per night.
  2. Stay engaged. Chat with your passengers or sing along to some tunes. Before driving, pick a playlist (or podcast) that will rev you up. If you’re talking on the phone, use hands-free.
  3. Pair up. When traveling long distances, taking turns behind the wheel allows you to rest without putting your trip on pause.
  4. Get some air. Roll down your windows for a blast of air and consider looking for a safe place to pull over to take a 20-minute nap. If you’re on the highway, the stimulating sounds of the rushing wind can also help keep you alert.
  5. Catch up on your reading. Audiobooks can help keep your attention—try an app or a local library for audio titles before you go.
  6. Take a break. Get out and stretch, use the restroom or get a snack every 100 miles or 2 hours.

Learning defensive driving techniques can help you become a better driver and earn you a discount on car insurance. Visit GEICO’s defensive driver discounts section for more information.


Next: 7 Bad Driving Habits to Avoid

Illustration by Sébastien Thibault

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  1. Kathie O'Donnell says

    Another serious reason for driving drowsy is undiagnosed sleep apnea. I found it necessary to take a lot of naps in the past while driving 600 mile stints. It is very scary as some don’t realize they are falling asleep. Luckily, I realized the danger of this and got tested. The problem is now resolved. Something to check out if this happens to you a lot.

  2. Knoxcop1 says

    I’ve found that pulling over to the deepest portion of the side of interstate (if no rest areas avail), turning on blinkers and locking doors then setting alarm on phone for 30 mins is best. Leave engine running, LOCK DOORS, and clock out is best. When the alarm goes off, try to stretch and open a window for fresh air and more oxygen!

    IF THAT’S NOT AN OPTION YOU’RE COMFORTABLE WITH–Try munching on a crunchy snack. I’ve even talked to myself, and basically just DOING anything with your hands or even ONE hand will allow driving and help reduce those awful sleepy jags that could kill yo and/or others!

    Chew gum. I’ve read somewhere to CHEW GUM or candies. Supposedly it’s harder to fall asleep when something is in your mouth while driving. It’s also supposed to make it more difficult to drowse out or be sleepy.

    I’ve done the talking, the sunglass wearing, pulled over to stretch and stand.

  3. Susie says

    Actually many people are on meds. These people may have no alternate driver. Pulling over for a 20minute nap is advisable.

  4. Linda Brown says

    This is very good information to know thank u for that cause sometimes this is what happens when I work late hours an have to drive a distance back home

  5. Rosemary Cantrell says

    Here is a subject of interest considering I just passed my tests for an occupational license!!
    I will soon be a driving instructor and this is my biggest worry (personally). I fear being sleepy while a student is driving. Thank you for all the great advice on the subject. I will incorporate an understanding to my students!!!

    Sincerely,

    Rosemary Cantrell

  6. Richard says

    I work overnight third shift and I have a restaurant that I stop at to rest on my hour drive home. Also if your phone can connect to your car speakers I try and have someone to talk to. My wife usually is up. And if I’m not focus on what she is talking about I have to pull over. Thank you for the tips

  7. Bruce says

    These tips are good and there’s another tip I learned while driving to and from college across the entire U.S. with my brother. Change driving duties every 100 miles no matter what the driver says. Very often, a driver might say, “I don’t need to stop driving now, I feel great.” But when the trip is lengthy, force the change no matter what, In the long run, it provides a much more efficient, and safe experience for everyone in the car and on the road.

  8. Elizabeth Jacquez says

    Gieco has been the best auto insurance that I have had. I’ve had auto insurance for twenty years! Your the best

  9. lillian iciano says

    thank you for the info , but am always careful when I drive. Also I take care my beauty sleep at least 8 hours at day, not questions asked. thank again.

  10. Richard says

    Dear GEICO, I live 10 miles from work ,third shift and know how drowsy it can be driving home.Every day on my last 15 min. break I drink coffee and eat something sweet.It seems to boost my last energy until I get home safe and hit the sack! Thanks for the tips

  11. John Broadwater says

    if you get drowsy put as much ice on top of your head as possible. this has always worked for me. it will melt and drip down on you. it cools your head and wakes you up.

  12. Rebecca says

    Its like GEICO was reading my mind..kinda creepy really. But I work nights and I drive home at 6 am and sometimes its hard to stay awake!