March 9, 2005

One in five drivers nods off while driving, study shows

Ottawa, Ontario – One in five Canadian drivers admits to having “nodded off” or fallen asleep while driving, according to the Road Safety Monitor report released by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation and co-sponsored by Toyota Canada.

Road Safety Monitor is an annual public opinion survey, conducted by telephone, of a random representative sample of Canadian drivers.

The report showed that half the drivers surveyed reported driving while tired or fatigued, at least occasionally, while an estimated 4.1 million drivers have nodded off or fallen asleep at least once while driving in the past 12 months.

The report showed that falling asleep is more likely to occur in the afternoon or at night; male drivers are more likely to report having done so than female drivers. Those who reported falling asleep also said that they got less than 8 hours sleep per night, rated the quality of their sleep as “poor”, and experienced more daytime sleepiness. A total of 1,209 drivers completed the survey.

In Canada, fatigue is listed as a causal or contributing factor in more than 2,000 fatal or injury crashes. This represents 1 per cent of all drivers involved in serious collisions, although the figure is believed to be low. In the United States, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that drowsy driving is responsible for 100,000 crashes, 40,000 injuries and 1,550 deaths annually.

Studies found commonalities in drowsy-driving crashes. A detailed examination found that 78 per cent involved a single vehicle; 62 per cent were over 88 km/hr; and 79 per cent involved the vehicle leaving the road. Three-quarters of the drivers were male, with a median age of 23. The most common time period was midnight to 7 a.m. Among drivers up to the age of 45, late night/early morning crashes were highest; among older drivers, mid-afternoon crashes were most likely.

In another study, crash risk factors included holding multiple jobs, working night shift, getting less than 6 hours sleep per night, greater use of sleep medications, and driving for long durations.

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