According to a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, driving while sleepy nearly triples your odds of getting into a car crash. The study also determined that drowsy drivers are actually as great a risk as speeders and even more dangerous than aggressive or inattentive drivers.
Based on data collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, using video recorders and sensors, researchers determined that drowsiness was a contributing factor in one out of every five crashes or near crashes over the course of about a year.
There are around 100,000 police-reported crashes each year according to government estimates, though the number of crashes that could be attributed to sleepiness may be well below the actual number because of the difficulty in determining whether sleepiness was a contributing factor.
The most common times for sleep-deprived crashes occur between midnight and 6 a.m. and in mid-afternoon, when the body’s natural rhythms tend to make people feel sleepier. This is a reason why the State of West Virginia prohibits novice drivers (ages 15 to 17) from driving between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m.
According to experts, rolling down a window or blasting music do not help much if you are really sleepy, and caffeine takes a half hour to take effect. The only way to really protect yourself is to get enough sleep or let someone else do the driving.