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The scope of the drowsy driving problem in the United States is staggering. Data collected by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration indicate that at least 15 million drivers nationwide have nodded off or fallen asleep while driving in the past six months. That equates to more than eighty thousand drivers in the nation falling asleep at the wheel every day, or about one every second throughout the day and night
Drowsy drivers endanger themselves, their families and their fellow citizens. The outcome of these episodes is sobering: more than half wander into another lane, drift onto the shoulder or drive across the centerline. 1 in 10 incidents results in the driver running off the road. An estimated 1,350,000 drivers nationwide have been involved in a drowsy-driving-related accident in the previous five years – that's 30 crashes per hour or one every two minutes.
This nation has laws in all 50 states and spends more than $300 million annually on education about the hazards of drinking and driving, yet it spends only about a tenth of a percent of that figure on drowsy driving education. New Jersey is the only state in the U.S. to explicitely establish drowsy driving as a crime. Under New Jersey state law "driving after more than 24 hours of wakefulness" is a convictable crime. Several other states have convicted drowsy drivers under more general statutes regarding driver impairment.
Dr. Sonia Ancoli-Israel established the SRS Presidential Task Force on Sleep and Public Policy in response to a request for advice from Massachusetts State Senator Richard Moore. The task force was chaired by Charles A. Czeisler, PhD, MD and included David F. Dinges, PhD, Lawrence Epstein, MD, Christopher P. Landrigan, MD, MPH and James Walsh, PhD. The SRS Board of Directors endorsed model drowsy driving legislation based on the recommendations of the SRS Task Force on Sleep and Public Policy.
This drowsy driving legislation is just as important to raising societal awareness as drunk driving legislation was 50 years ago.
The SRS has gathered these resources to aid groups in passing drowsy driving legislation and education efforts:
The Sleep Research Society supports the passage of Drowsy Driving Legislation across the United States. If you are interested in joining this initiative and/or working on Drowsy Driving Legislation, please send your contact information to Nick Cekosh.