2021 Drowsy Driving Statistics

Fatigued driving, or drowsy driving, is a common issue in the United States. When you are sleep-deprived, you are unable to drive responsibly. According to a recent report from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, more than 6,400 car accident fatalities are caused by drowsy driving annually.10 that is a staggering number and one that illuminates the severity of this issue. When drivers are informed of the truth behind drowsy driving, they can make more responsible choices and limit collisions.

What is Drowsy Driving?

Drowsy driving is a type of impaired driving. When drivers are overcome with feelings of tiredness and fatigue, they may be less attuned to changes in traffic or other drivers.

Drowsy driving does not have to mean you fall asleep at the wheel. If you are impaired by sleepiness, you can have a slower reaction time. This makes you more likely to cause a car accident and makes you more vulnerable to other negligent drivers. Drowsy driving is irresponsible and can cause severe injure to yourself and others. According to the CDC, Being awake for 18 hours is equivalent to having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.05%.9 The effects continuously get worse the longer a person stays awake.

Most Recent Drowsy Driving Statistics

Drowsy driving is a serious issue in the United States. Many of drowsy driving incidents result in fatalities or severe injuries each year. In the first quarter of 2021, there were approximately 8,3730 car accident fatalities in the United States.2 of these accidents, a considerable number were caused by drowsy driving. According to the previously mentioned AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study as well as data from the National Sleep Foundation, the following was found:

  • Drowsy driving was a contributing factor in 8.8% to 9.5% of crashes
  • There are 100,000 police-reported crashes each year are caused primarily by drowsy driving.
  • Drowsy driving accidents result in 71,000 injuries annually.
  • Drowsy driving results in more than 6,400 fatalities annually
  • 6%–10.8% of drowsy driving incidents result in injury, property damage, or airbag deployment
  • 8% of drowsy driving accidents were police reportable
  • 5% of drowsy driving accidents were considered severe
  • 8% of drowsy driving accidents occurred during daylight
  • 20-24-year-olds caused 27.4% of drowsy driving accidents

In nearly 10% of car accidents, drowsy driving is a contributing factor. This negligent driving can result in serious injury to you or another person. Typically, women tend to drive drowsy more than men, but the difference is slight. In the study done by AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, it was found that women caused 54.1% of drowsy driving car accidents and men caused 45.9%.

Age plays a factor as well. In the same study, it was reported that most drowsy driving car accidents are caused by 20 to 24-year-olds, with 16 to 19-year-olds not far behind at 27%. The age demographic with the fewest drowsy driving incidents is 35 to 49-year-olds.

Most drowsy driving accidents do not happen at night. In fact, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that only 25.8% of incidents occur in darkness, and 4.4% happen at dawn or dusk. The majority occur in daylight, contradicting common beliefs about drowsy driving.

AAA’s 2019 Traffic Safety Culture Index, published in June 2020, found that 24% of drivers admit to having driven while drowsy in the past 30 days.3 It’s unclear how many drivers will admit to having completely fallen asleep at the wheel.

When Do Most Drowsy Driving Accidents Occur?

Drowsy driving accidents can occur under a variety of circumstances. Drivers may be tired from work or under the influence of substances. The National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHSTA) found that many instances of drowsy driving happen when a driver is alone in their car. There are no passengers to alert them to swerving or dozing off. They often occur on unpopulated roads or highways.4

The majority of drowsy driving incidents occur between midnight and six in the morning, as well as late afternoon. According to NHSTA, your circadian rhythm dips during these times, impacting alertness.

Interestingly, Daylight Savings Time can affect your sleep patterns. a 2021 poll from the National Sleep Foundation found that 70% of people who observe Daylight Savings Time do not think it affects their sleep.5 In fact, impediments to your circadian rhythm can hinder your alertness. a 2020 report published in Current Biology found a 6% increase in fatal car accidents around Daylight Savings Time.6

Impact of Drowsy Driving

Driving while impaired, under any circumstances, is dangerous. If you drive while fatigued, you risk causing injury to yourself or others. Drowsy driving can result in significant monetary losses and even loss of life.

It’s estimated that drowsy driving accidents that result in injury or death cost our society over $109 billion annually.7 That’s not including property damage. Individually, your medical bills and property damage expenses can be overwhelming after a drowsy driving accident. If you cause an accident, you may also be liable for an injured victim’s expenses.

Preventative Measures for Drowsy Driving

Although drowsy driving is a serious problem in the United States, there are ways to prevent it. Using good judgment and not driving while tired is best to prevent drowsy driving accidents. Other tips from the NHSTA include:8

Suppose you feel drowsy while driving. It’s wise to pull over to a safe location and take a 20-minute nap. Continuing to drive through feelings of tiredness can increase your chances of being in a dangerous car accident. If you are extremely tired, simply drinking coffee will not help. Putting off sleeping to drive is not wise under any circumstances. Educating yourself on the dangers of drowsy driving can help prevent you from engaging in irresponsible behaviors. If you were injured by a drowsy driver, contact our Boston car accident lawyer and Boston rental car accident lawyer today to ensure you get your compensation.


1 Owens, J. M., Dingus, T. A., Guo, F., Fang, Y., Perez, M., McClafferty, J., Tefft, B. (2018, February). Prevalence of Drowsy Driving Crashes: Estimates from a Large-Scale Naturalistic Driving Study. (Research Brief.) Washington, D.C.: AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.


2 National Center for Statistics and Analysis. (2021, August). Early Estimate of Motor Vehicle Traffic Fatalities for the First Quarter of 2021 (Crash Stats Brief Statistical Summary. Report No. DOT HS 813 149). National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.


3 AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. (2020). 2019 Traffic Safety Culture Index (Technical Report). Washington, D.C.: AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.


4 Insurance Information Institute. (n.d.). Facts + Statistics: Drowsy driving.


5 National Sleep Foundation. National Sleep Foundation’s 2021 Sleep in America® Poll Shows Gaps Between Public Sentiment and the Effects of Clock Change. (2021, March 14).


6 Fritz, J., VoPham, T., Wright, K. P., Jr, & Vetter, C. (2020). A Chronobiological Evaluation of the Acute Effects of Daylight Saving Time on Traffic Accident Risk. Current biology: CB, 30(4), 729–735.e2.


7 National Safety Council. (n.d.) Drivers are Falling Asleep Behind the Wheel.


8 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (n.d.). Drowsy Driving.
9 Center for Disease Control. (n.d.). Drowsy Driving.
10 Drivers are falling asleep behind the wheel. National Safety Council. (n.d.).