Sleepy drivers crash more

Too many Australians are falling asleep at the wheel and even more are driving while drowsy. Until recently, it was difficult to identify whether or not a driver was drowsy. Victorian researchers are now developing a test, using smart glasses, which is able to measure eyelid movements and blinks.

The Sleep Health Survey found:

  • One-fifth of Australian adults admit to falling asleep while driving
  • Nearly a third drive while drowsy at least once a month
  • 5% say they had a car accident in the past year because of tiredness.

Not being able to measure drowsiness has made it harder for authorities to enforce campaigns about fatigue or driving while drowsy.

In the US, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety says drivers who miss 1-2 hours of the recommended 7 hours nearly double their risk of crashing. Worse, having less than 5 hours sleep carries the same risk of crashing as driving drunk.

No symptoms

Sometimes the symptoms of tiredness are not obvious.

More than half of US drivers involved in fatigue-related crashes experience no symptoms before falling asleep behind the wheel. Others have trouble keeping eyes open, drifting from lanes or not remembering the last few miles driven.

It is quite a sobering thought that many drivers willingly drive while tired.

Why are people so tired?

The Sleep Foundation in Australia says:

  • 44% of adults are on the internet just before bed almost every night
  • Nearly half of all adults reported having two or more sleep-related problems.

There are many possible reasons why people are so tired. You might blame a culture of busyness, heavy use of technologies before bed, financial pressures on families and even failure to slow down, such as eating lunch at the desk while working or not taking annual leave.


The Australia Institute found 3.8 million Australians no longer stop for lunch. Roy Morgan says, in June 2016, Australians had 133,737,000 days’ worth of annual leave accrued – about 16 days each.

Perhaps people today are afraid to stop to sleep in fear of missing out (FOMO).

Unfortunately, even the best drivers get tired and it makes no sense to knowingly drive while drowsy. Remember, this Easter holiday, sleepy drivers are twice as likely to crash.

Corrina Baird

Writer and expert

Corrina used to lend her car to her kids and discovered first hand what Ls, Ps and demerits mean for greenslips. After 20 years of writing and research in financial services, she’s an expert in the NSW CTP scheme. Read more about Corrina

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