Sleep deprived driving

Sleep deprived driving is the operation of a motor vehicle while being cognitively impaired by a lack of sleep. Sleep deprivation is a major cause of motor vehicle accidents, and it can impair the human brain as much as alcohol can. According to a 1998 survey, 23% of adults have fallen asleep while driving. According to the United States Department of Transportation, male drivers admit to have fallen asleep while driving twice as much as female drivers.

The effects of sleep deprivation on driving performance

Sleep deprivation has been proven to affect driving ability in three areas:

  1. It impairs coordination.
  2. It causes longer reaction times.
  3. It impairs judgment.

The effects of sleep deprivation compared to the effects of alcohol

Numerous studies have found that sleep deprivation can affect driving as much, and sometimes more, than alcohol. British researchers have found that driving after 17 to 18 hours of being awake is as harmful as driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.05%, the legal limit in many European countries. Men under 30 are more likely to be in an accident caused by sleep deprivation.


It has been estimated that between 16% and 60% of all accidents have sleep deprivation as a cause. Between 1989 and 1993, it has been estimated that an average of 1544 people were killed annually in the US as a result of sleep deprived driving.. Accidents related to sleep deprivation are most likely to happen in the early to midafternoon, and in the very early morning hours. Sleep deprivation was blamed a major cause of the Selby rail crash in which 10 people died and 82 were injured.

Sleep deprived driving in truckers and in the military

Sleep deprived driving is a major problem in truckers and in the military. The US military estimates that approximately 9% of crashes resulting in death or serious injury during Operation Desert Storm and Operation Desert Shield were caused by sleep deprived driving.

Government response to sleep deprived driving

Governments had attempted to reduce sleep deprived driving through education messages and by ingraining roads with dents, known as "rumble" strips in the US, which cause a noise when drivers wander out of their lane. The Government of Western Australia recently introduced a "Driver Reviver" program where drivers can receive free coffee to help them stay awake.


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