Sleepy drivers kill 6,400 annually

Take a Break – drive awake!  Arrive ALIVE!!!  (Courtesy graphic)

Take a Break – drive awake! Arrive ALIVE!!! (Courtesy graphic)



Because the approaching winter holiday season is one of the busiest long-distance travel periods of the year, the 340th Flying Training Group Unit Safety Representative is reminding travelers that more vehicles on the road, many driven by tired, rushed or distracted drivers increases the risk of a crash.


“Starting with Thanksgiving, and then moving on to Christmas and New Year’s Eve we always see an increase in accidents,” said Master Sgt. Jennifer Robles, 340th FTG USR. “In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has reported that Thanksgiving day is the most dangerous and most deadly holiday for driving.”


Robles said distracted and drowsy driving are becoming major problems in the United States year- round and the risk increases significantly when the number of travelers peaks, as friends and family come together to celebrate. NHTSA 2016 figures show that fatalities from distraction-affected crashes increased 8.8 percent from the previous year. To bring heightened awareness to the peril, Robles said the National Sleep Foundation has declared Nov. 5-12 as Drowsy Driving Prevention Week.


According to the National Safety Council, in 2016, for the first time in nearly a decade 40,000 people died in motor vehicle crashes. That marks a six percent increase over 2015 and a 14 percent increase over 2014 – the most dramatic two-year escalation in 53 years. A drill-down into these statistics reveals the role distracted and\or drowsy driving played in the increase:

  • Sleep-deprived drivers are responsible for more than 6,400 U.S. deaths and 50,000 injuries every year. About 20 percent of fatal accidents in the U.S. involve a drowsy driver.
  • Driving after only 4-5 hours of sleep is similar to the U.S. government’s estimates of the risk associated with driving with a blood alcohol concentration equal to or slightly above the legal limit for alcohol.
  • According to NHTSA, distracted driving played a role in 10 percent of the deaths reported for 2016. Distracted-driving fatalities have risen at a greater percentage than those attributed to drunk or drowsy driving, speeding and failing to wear a seatbelt.

Robles offers these tips to ensure your holiday travels are accident free:

  • Take a 10-20 minute nap every couple of hours on a long drive. Simply turning up the radio or opening the window are not effective ways to keep you alert.
  • Use your cell phone for emergencies only. Even then, it’s best to pull over safely. Hands-free devices can still cause you to miss important visual and audio cues needed to avoid a crash.
  • Avoid eating while driving. Food spills are a major cause of distraction.
  • Multi-task outside of the car.
"If you have not slept seven or more hours in a given 24-hour period, you really shouldn't be behind the wheel of a car and no phone call is worth your life,” said Robles. “Remember, safety is the greatest gift you can give, not only to your family but to those who share the roads with you.”