It seems Americans are not getting enough sleep and it’s affecting drivers’ safety. As stated in a report by the American Automobile Association Foundation for Traffic Safety, data obtained from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA) indicated that on an annual basis, there were more than 91,000 police reported crashes, resulting in 50,000 injuries and 800 fatalities due to drowsy driving.  

The report noted that it can be difficult to get accurate numbers related to drowsy driving because it is often at the police officer's discretion to report that driving while drowsy was a factor. The NHTSA believes the actual numbers could be significantly higher. 

A 2023 NHTSA study, Drowsiness and Decision-Making During Long Drives: A Driving Simulation Study, looked at the impact of driving drowsy on overall driver safety.  

The 3-hour long simulated driving experiment resulted in startling reactions on the part of drivers. The study found that participants both underestimated and overestimated their levels of drowsiness relative to the objective eye-based measure. It was slightly more common for participants to underestimate how drowsy they were. 

Drivers who reported low perceived levels of drowsiness were in fact moderately or highly drowsy 75 percent of the time. 

Participants were given the opportunity to take a break from driving every 20 minutes when they passed simulated rest areas. More than half of study participants did not take any breaks, while 39 percent took one break and 11 percent took two breaks. Of those who took breaks, more than 40 percent reported feeling tired/drowsy/sleepy was the reason for the break.

Drivers aged 21-34 were the most likely to drive drowsy, while men were more likely than women to drive while drowsy and accounted for most fatal crashes. 

Time of day also played a significant role in when fatal accidents resulting from drowsy driving occurred. Most fatal drowsy driving crashes occurred between 11:00 p.m. and 2:59 a.m., while the percentage of drivers who were drowsy was highest among those who crashed between the hours of 3:00 a.m. and 6:59 a.m.