Outcome of Nodding Off on Most Recent Occasion

The overwhelming majority (92%) of drivers who have nodded off while driving within the past six months report that they startled awake. However, sizable proportions of these drivers' experiences had more dangerous outcomes. One of three (33%) wandered into another lane or onto the shoulder, while 19% say they crossed the centerline. In one in ten (10%) cases, the driver ran off the road. While it happened in only about 2% of the most recent drowsy driving episodes, it is estimated that approximately 292,000 drivers were involved in some type of crash within the past six months as a result of nodding off at the wheel. [Figure 17-A]

Involved in Crash as Result of Nodding Off Past Five Years

Less than one percent (.7%) of all drivers (1.4% of those who have ever nodded off while driving, and 6.4% of those who have done so in the past six months) report they have been involved in a crash within the past five years that they attribute to them nodding off or having to greatly struggle to keep their eyes open. This equates to 2.5% of drivers who have been in any crash in the past five years attributing a crash to drowsy driving.

Males are twice as likely as females to have been in such a crash (1.0% compared to .4%). While the total numbers of drivers involved is still small, drivers under age 30 are about six times more likely (1.8% have) to report involvement in a crash as a result of drowsy driving as are older drivers (.3%). [Figure 17-B]

While the proportion of drivers involved in a crash as a result of nodding off at the wheel is very small, the actual numbers of drivers involved in such crashes over the past five years is sizable. Figure 17-C shows the estimated numbers of drivers by age and gender involved in a drowsy driving-related crash, along with high and low ranges around the estimates.

An estimated 1.35 million drivers have been involved in a drowsy driving related crash in the past five years. About seven in ten of these drivers, or 972,000 were males, while 379,000 were females. Young drivers make a disproportionally high number of drowsy driving-related crashes, with about 274,000 drivers under age 21 involved in a drowsy driving-related crash within the past five years. These young drivers make up about 20% of all drivers involved in such a crash, yet these drivers under age 21 make up about 8.5% of the driving population. Similarly, about 44% of all drivers involved in a drowsy driving-related crash are in their 20s (594,000 drivers) yet they make up just 15% of the driving population. Relatively few drivers over age 64 (18,000) have had a drowsy driving-related crash in the past five years.