CHP warns of drowsy driving risk as days get shorter

As the end of daylight saving time approaches, the California Highway Patrol and its traffic safety partners are reminding motorists about the impact the time change and a lack of adequate sleep can have on their ability to safely operate a motor vehicle.

The CHP has partnered with the California Department of Transportation, the California Office of Traffic Safety, and the National Sleep Foundation in recognizing Nov. 6-12 as Drowsy Driving Prevention Week to raise awareness about the importance of a good night’s rest before driving.

Although we “fall back” and gain an extra hour of sleep, it does not necessarily equate to added rest, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.  In the fall, people tend to wake up earlier, which results in less sleep throughout the week.  The time change can also impair sleep quality.  This disruption in sleep/wake patterns can have dangerous consequences, such as an increased risk of motor vehicle crashes.

“The CHP’s mission is to eliminate roadway deaths through education and enforcement of traffic safety laws designed to keep motorists safe,” said CHP Commissioner Amanda Ray.  “Fatigue can impair driving skills similar to being under the influence of alcohol or drugs.  Plan ahead before you get on the road to ensure you are well rested.’’

“Being so tired that you’re ‘running on fumes’ and driving are a dangerous combination,” OTS Director Barbara Rooney said.  “Driving safely requires your full and undivided attention – something we are not able to do when tired and sleepy.  It is important you get the sleep you need so that when you drive, you are alert and refreshed.”

In California in 2019 and 2020, drowsy drivers caused more than 11,000 crashes , resulting in 6,411 injuries and 73 deaths.  Drivers ages 16-25 are at the greatest risk of falling asleep at the wheel, however drowsiness impacts anyone’s ability to drive safely by slowing reaction times and making it harder to pay attention to the road.

“Caltrans is committed to eliminating fatalities and serious injuries on all California roadways by 2050,” said Caltrans Director Tony Tavares.  “To achieve this ambitious goal, Caltrans is working to make our transportation system safer and more forgiving.  However, safety is a shared responsibility.  Every motorist can do their part by ensuring that, when they get behind the wheel, they are well rested and alert.”

Whenever motorists begin to feel tired, the CHP reminds motorists to pull safely off the road and use one of Caltrans’ statewide roadside rest areas for a quick mind-clearing break.  To find a rest area or to check for the latest travel information on state highways, visit the Caltrans QuickMap at http://quickmap.dot.ca.gov/.  Motorists are advised against stopping on the side of the road where they risk getting hit by another car.