Atlanta, GA,
11:25 AM

Drowsy Driving is the New Distracted Driving


By Emma Harrington, director of injury prevention and education at Shepherd Center

Ask any new parent who is routinely pouring their cereal into their coffee if fatigue impacts their ability to function. Not getting enough shut-eye has serious cognitive consequences, like inhibiting decision-making, attention, and memory — all significant skill sets needed to drive safely. Substantial time and attention have been paid to the distracted driving epidemic in our nation. Still, perhaps more education needs to be done on drowsy driving because it is easy for even the most vigilant among us to slip into it. The CDC reports that 1 in 25 has fallen asleep at the wheel in the last month. Most likely underrepresented in the data, at least 6,000 fatal crashes may have involved a drowsy driver in 2020. Certainly, more research on drowsy driving needs to be done, but for now, here are a few tips on how to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.

  1. Talk to your kids about the importance of getting enough sleep — and lead by example. Set regular bedtimes and limit screen time before bed.
  2. Familiarize yourself with your state’s Graduated Drivers Licensing laws: most states restrict new drivers to daytime driving, as nighttime hours are far riskier. This is especially true for drowsy driving, where most injuries and fatalities occur between midnight and 6 a.m.
  3. Recognize and talk about the warning signs of drowsy driving, including weaving, hitting the rumble strips, missing your exit or turn, blinking and yawning, and not remembering the last few miles driven.
  4. When appropriate, pull over and call for help or switch drivers. Using your parents’ trick of turning up the radio is not enough to keep you safe on the road.
  5. Be aware that your brain may operate differently late at night. According to neurologists at Mass General, your brain’s chemicals change at night, resulting in negative changes in attitudes and behavior.



About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain, and other neurological conditions. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation. In its more than four decades, Shepherd Center has grown from a six-bed rehabilitation unit to a world-renowned, 152-bed hospital that treats more than 740 inpatients, nearly 280 day program patients and more than 7,100 outpatients each year in more than 46,000 visits.