White Paper: Consequences of Drowsy Driving

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time, and should not be relied upon to make up for a sleep deficit, studies show. As one researcher put it “Sleep debt can only be paid back with sleep.” (Nguyen et al, 1998)

There is no evidence that the alertness enhancing medicine modafinil can reduce drowsy driving. In one small study, in which sleep-deprived individuals were given the drug and then tested on a driving simulator, modafinil reduced lane deviation, but had less effect on speed deviation, off-road incidents and reaction time, while self-assessments indicated that the drug gave the sleep-deprived participants false confidence in their driving abilities. (Gurtman et al, 2008) There is also no evidence for anecdotal reports that opening car windows, stopping to stretch, or turning up the volume of a car radio can prevent drowsy driving crashes. (Nguyen et al, 1998)

Drowsy driving is a prevalent and serious public health issue that deserves more attention, education, and policy initiatives so a substantial amount of lives can be saved and disability averted due to drowsy driving accidents.

  • American Automobile Association Foundation for Traffic Safety, 2010. Asleep at the wheel: the prevalence and impact of drowsy driving , http://www.aaafoundation.org/pdf/2010DrowsyDrivingReport.pdf, accessed 1/5/11.
  • Dawson, D. and K. Reid, 1997. Fatigue, alcohol and performance impairment. Nature, 338:235.
  • Drobnich, D., 2005. A national Sleep Foundation’s conference summary: the national summit to prevent drowsy driving and a new call to action, Industrial Health , 43:197-200.
  • Federal Highway Administration, 1998. The Driver Fatigue and Alertness Study . U.S.Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, Office of Motor Carriers, Washington, D.C.
  • Filliatrault, D.D., Cooper, P.J., King, D.J. et al, 1996. Efficiency of vehicle-based data to predict lane departure arising from loss of alertness due to fatigue. In 40th Annual Proceedings of the Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine , Vancouver, British Columbia, October 1996.
  • Gurtman, C.G., Broadbear, J.H., and J.R. Redman, 2008. Effects of modafinil on simulator driving and self-assessment of driving following sleep deprivation, Human Psychopharmacology , 23(8):681-92.
  • Itoi, A., R. Cilveta, R., Voth, M. et al, 1993. Can drivers avoid falling asleep at the wheel? Washington, D.C.:
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