Self-reported circumstances and consequences of driving while sleepy
Journal article, 2015

Driver surveys are indispensable sources of information when estimating the role of sleepiness in crash causation. The purpose of the study was to (1) identify the prevalence of driving while sleepy among Finnish drivers, (2) determine the circumstances of such instances, and (3) identify risk factors and risk groups. Survey data were collected from a representative sample of active Finnish drivers (N = 1121). One-fifth of the drivers (19.5%) reported having fallen asleep at the wheel during their driving career, with 15.9% reporting having been close to falling asleep or having difficulty staying awake when driving during the previous twelve months. Epworth Sleepiness Scale scores were found to be associated with both types of sleepiness-related driving instances, while sleep quality was associated only with the latter. Compared to women, men more often reported falling asleep at the wheel; the differences were somewhat smaller with respect to fighting sleep while driving during the previous twelve months. The reported discrepancy in sleepiness-related instances (high prevalence of fighting sleep while driving during the previous twelve months and lower proportion of actually falling asleep) identifies young men (≤25 years) as one of the main target groups for safety campaigns. Approximately three-quarters of drivers who had fallen asleep while driving reported taking action against falling asleep before it actually happened. Furthermore, almost all drivers who had fallen asleep while driving offered at least one logical reason that could have contributed to their falling asleep. These data indicate some degree of awareness about driving while sleepy and of the potential pre-trip factors that could lead to sleepiness while driving, and supports the notion that falling asleep at the wheel does not come as a (complete) surprise to the driver.

Driver fatigue


Epworth Sleepiness Scale




I. Radun

Stockholm University

University of Helsinki

J. Radun

University of Helsinki

Mattias Wahde

Chalmers, Applied Mechanics, Vehicle Engineering and Autonomous Systems

C.N. Watling

Queensland University of Technology (QUT)

Stockholm University

G. Kecklund

Radboud University

Stockholm University

Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour

1369-8478 (ISSN)

Vol. 32 91-100

Subject Categories

Vehicle Engineering



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