Latest Research: Driving Tired Is Like Drunk Driving

The latest sleep research suggests that driving tired, or even just driving several hours in night time darkness, severely impairs a driver's reactions.

Research shows that driving tired is as dangerous as drunk driving, driving intoxicated or driving on narcotics.

This is a serious finding for all drivers, but for truck drivers, commercial drivers driving big rigs driving long hours, the devastation from mistakes are too often extreme and unforgiving. Many experts have been concerned for many years about the federal regulations governing the maximum hours a commercial truck driver drives in a day and the maximum for a seven day period.

In January 2011 automotive researchers published their findings which suggest that driving tired is like driving drunk: "The researchers estimate that as much as 20 percent of vehicle accidents in industrialized countries can be attributed to fatigue." [1]

In fact, the sleep researchers suggest that in addition to fatigue, driving three hours at night produces significant impairment in drivers similar to alcohol and drunk driving, an effect not attributable to only fatigue.

Only 2 hours of continuous nocturnal driving were sufficient to produce driving impairment comparable to a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.05%; after 3 h of driving impairment corresponds to a BAC of 0.08%. In conclusion, a maximum of two continuous nocturnal driving hours should be recommended. [2]

These findings about nocturnal driving impairment in addition to fatigued driving have invigorated the discussion of federal regulations of truck driver hours. Federal law on sleep and rest time is detailed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration hours of service regulations. A truck driver's service hours include the time inspecting, fueling and otherwise supervising their rig. There are different regulations for commercial drivers hauling cargo verses human passengers. [3]

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety conducted a survey and published their finding in 2005 about concerns over an hour of service rule change.

[...] drivers of interstate trucks spend more time behind the wheel under a federal work rule that went into effect in 2004. This new rule lengthens the mandatory rest period by two hours but lets drivers stay on the road an extra hour every day. A workweek restart provision increases allowable driving hours in a 7-day period from 60 to 77. A quarter of drivers who were surveyed said they drive more than the new daily limit of 11 hours. Eight of 10 drivers said they're taking advantage of the restart provision that allows them to drive 25 percent more in a week. [4]

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration length of driving day is under continued scrutiny. As well the 2004 changes to truck driver hours of service and the so-called 34 hour restart rule which essentially allows for a limit of 77 hours of driving a big rig per week under the 2004 rule changes. With the new research on tired driving and nocturnal driving itself causing impairment, the hours of service rules are currently under increased skepticism. Some suggest that fatigue is an even larger factor in truck accidents.

This 34-hour restart period cannot ensure a truck driver receives proper rest. Every year more than 4,000 people are killed in accidents involving trucks, according to the FMCSA.  The National Transportation Safety Board has said driver fatigue is a factor in 30 to 40 percent of these crashes.  In fact, research shows the risk of a crash increases twofold after eight hours of consecutive driving, and driver fatigue is the leading contributing factor in truck driver deaths from crashes.  


1. Study: Driving Tired Is Like Driving Drunk - Wired Magazine January 24, 2011.

2. Journal of Sleep Research January 2011 Prolonged nocturnal driving can be as dangerous as severe alcohol-impaired driving 1. JORIS C. VERSTER1, 2. JACQUES TAILLARD2, 3. PATRICIA SAGASPE2,3, 4. BEREND OLIVIER1, 5. PIERRE PHILIP2 Article first published online: 12 JAN 2011

3. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)

Hours-of-Service Regulations

4. Insurance Institute Highway Safety

New work rule for truckers isn't improving safety; survey shows truckers drive more, tired driving still prevalent

San Diego Truck Accident Attorney

If you have been injured in a truck accident and you believe that the truck driver was negligent because of driving tired or other actions that constitute negligence, you will need a skilled and experienced San Diego truck accident attorney to help prove your case.

I offer free no obligation consultations and I handle truck accident cases on a contingency fee basis which means that you will owe no attorney fees until you have a monetary recovery.

Proving truck driver negligence is very complicated. Most truck accident cases require accident reconstruction experts and other truck accident experts to help prove your case in addition to any other expert witnesses necessary to help prove your case. Before you hire a San Diego truck accident attorney, make sure your attorney is prepared to aggressively pursue your case.