Subscribe to Clinical Compass™ Volume 3, Issue 23 - November 4, 2008

Drowsy Driving Week

by Anne Lambert, MS

According to the National Sleep Foundation’s 2008 Sleep in America poll,(1) 28% of respondents said they are so sleepy during the day that it interferes with their daily activities at least a few days a month. Sixty-three percent said they are very likely to just accept their sleepiness and keep going, instead of making their sleep a priority. This past weekend, we rolled our clocks back to standard time. While we may all hope to feel more energetic with an extra hour of sleep, David Cloud, CEO of the National Sleep Foundation, said, “Many people have difficulties adjusting to the time change […] and may experience increased daytime sleepiness as they adjust to the new schedule. This is an important time to remember to plan ahead to make healthy sleep a priority and reduce incidents of daytime drowsiness.”

Daytime drowsiness, possibly exacerbated by the recent time change, is a real danger while driving, and extra precautions need to be taken to stay alert. Drowsy Driving Prevention Week™ (DDPW),(2) November 10-16, 2008, is designed to educate drivers about the dangers of driving while sleepy. Sleepiness and fatigue can slow reaction time; decrease awareness; impair reaction time, judgment, and vision; and lead to increased moodiness and aggressive behaviors.(3,4)

Most people are aware of the dangers of drinking and driving but don’t realize that drowsy driving can result in fatalities as well. Sixty percent of adult drivers—approximately 168 million people—admit to driving while feeling drowsy in the past year, and 37% have actually fallen asleep while driving.(1) The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated that 100,000 police-reported crashes per year are due to driver fatigue resulting in an estimated 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries, and $12.5 billion in monetary losses.(4) Several states are considering legislation that would allow police to charge drowsy drivers with criminal negligence if they injure or kill someone.

The healthcare community can help reduce drowsy driving by detecting and managing illnesses that can cause excessive sleepiness such as sleep apnea and narcolepsy. They can also talk to patients about the need for adequate sleep and good sleep hygiene as important parts of good health and as preventative measures for safe driving.

Here’s a list of reminders that you can share with your clients and patients to help them improve their level of wakefulness for safe driving:

  • Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night to maintain proper alertness during the day
  • For long trips, ask a friend to come along to share the driving and take rest breaks about every 100 miles or 2 hours
  • Limit driving between midnight and 6:00 AM
  • Avoid alcohol and sedating medications
  • If you feel sleepy, pull off at the next exit or rest area
  • Consume caffeine, which promotes short-term alertness in about 30 minutes, take a short nap, and then get back on the road
Visit our website,, for more information on sleep-related issues. Coming in 2009: Look for problem-based learning activities that use medical simulations to lead you through the clinical decision-making process in a variety of settings and therapeutic areas.

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  1. National Sleep Foundation’s 2008 Sleep in America poll. Available at:
  2. Available at:
  3. Papadelis C, Chen Z, Kourtidou-Papadeli C, et al. Monitoring sleepiness with on-board electrophysiological recordings for preventing sleep-deprived traffic accidents. Clin Neurophsyiol 2007;118:1906-1922.
  4. National Sleep Foundation. Available at

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