Is Driving Tired Like Driving Drunk?

This archived article is from July 2006. Although every effort has been made to make sure the information presented is accurate, please note that it may contain information that is out-of-date.

If you are over-tired, you are impaired. Please don’t drive. That’s the message from the Highway Safety Roundtable and its new website,

Drowsy drivers put themselves and other road users at risk. Like alcohol, fatigue affects our ability to drive by slowing reaction time, decreasing awareness and impairing judgment. But if you are overtired, your driving ability may well be impaired.

An alarming 20 percent of Canadians admit to falling asleep at the wheel at least once over the last year. Studies also suggest fatigue is a factor in about 15 percent of motor vehicle collisions, resulting in about 400 deaths and 2,100 serious injuries every year.

Fatigue can be caused by too few hours of sleep; interrupted or fragmented sleep or chronic sleep debt (lost hours of sleep that accumulate over time). Other factors contributing to driver fatigue include the amount of time spent on the road, time of day, undiagnosed sleep disorders and the use of medications or alcohol.

Telltale signs that you may be too tired to drive include loss of concentration, drowsiness, yawning, slow reactions, sore or tired eyes, boredom, feeling irritable and restless, missing road signs, difficulty in staying in the right lane, and nodding off. Shift workers and teenagers are especially susceptible. Drivers experiencing these symptoms are encouraged to pull safely over to the side of the road and stop for a nap.

Someone who has not slept for 18 hours is as impaired as someone with a 50 mg% blood alcohol level (for which, in most provinces, police can take away your driver’s license for 12 to 24 hours). Police cannot lay charges for fatigue impairment, but that is no reason to put your safety at risk.

Source: Highway Safety Roundtable