We simply don’t know how big a problem drowsy driving may be, except that it is almost certainly more of a problem than we realize.

Here are some statistics on drowsy driving:

In 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) surveyed nearly 150,000 American adults in 19 states and Washington, D.C. That survey found that approximately one in 25 people had fallen asleep while driving sometime in the previous 30 days. People who typically slept six or less hours and those who snored were more likely to have fallen asleep.

That same year, the AAA Traffic Safety Foundation report found that approximately 37% of drivers admitted having fallen asleep while driving at some point. The report also estimated that 6% of crashes involved drowsy drivers — and 21% of fatal crashes.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were at least 795 fatal motor vehicle crashes caused by drowsy drivers in 2017. That same year, police reported 91,000 crashes involving fatigued drivers, which led to around 50,000 people being injured.

Who is most prone to drive while fatigued?

According to a 2016 study by the AAA Traffic Safety Foundation, certain drivers had significantly elevated crash rates:

  • Those who routinely slept less then 5 hours per night
  • Those who had slept less than 7 hours in the past 24
  • Those who had slept one hour less than their usual amount in the past 24 hours

How dangerous was this? The report found that driving after sleeping only 4-5 hours puts you in the same risk category as a drunk driver.

Interestingly, according to NHTSA, many fatigued-driving crashes involve just a single vehicle, typically with no passengers, driving off the road with no evidence of braking.

Another common type of drowsy driving accident is one involving a commercial trucker. Over-the-road drivers are often pressured to deliver more quickly, and this can cause some drivers to cut back on their sleep time.

When are drowsy driving crashes most likely to occur?

NHTSA says that sleepiness can affect a variety of crashes at any time during the day or night. However, drowsy-driving crashes occur the most frequently between midnight and 6 a.m. and in the late afternoon.

Also, the start of daylight savings time is associated with an increase in car crashes, according to research at Stanford, Johns Hopkins and the University of British Columbia.

The reality is, it is impossible to know for sure how many crashes are caused by drowsy driving because the driver is likely to be woken up by the crash. People may not admit that they were asleep at the wheel, and the crash may be attributed to other factors.

What we do know is that fatigued driving is very common — and very serious. If you think you may have been injured by a drowsy driver, discuss your situation with an experienced personal injury attorney.