Sleep-deprived motor vehicle operators are unfit to drive: a multidisciplinary expert consensus statement on drowsy driving



      This article presents the consensus findings of the National Sleep Foundation Drowsy Driving Consensus Working Group, which was an expert panel assembled to establish a consensus statement regarding sleep-related driving impairment.


      The National Sleep Foundation assembled a expert panel comprised of experts from the sleep community and experts appointed by stakeholder organizations. A systematic literature review identified 346 studies that were abstracted and provided to the panelists for review. A modified Delphi RAND/UCLA Appropriateness Method with 2 rounds of voting was used to reach consensus.


      A final consensus was reached that sleep deprivation renders motorists unfit to drive a motor vehicle. After reviewing growing evidence of impairment and increased crash risk among drivers who obtained less than optimal sleep duration in the preceding 24 hours, the panelists recognized the need for public policy guidance as to when it is certainly unsafe to drive. Toward this end, the panelists agreed upon the following expert consensus statement: “Drivers who have slept for two hours or less in the preceding 24 hours are not fit to operate a motor vehicle.” Panelists further agreed that most healthy drivers would likely be impaired with only 3 to 5 hours of sleep during the prior 24 hours.


      There is consensus among experts that healthy individuals who have slept for 2 hours or less in the preceding 24 hours are too impaired to safely operate a motor vehicle. Prevention of drowsy driving will require sustained and collaborative effort from multiple stakeholders. Implications and limitations of the consensus recommendations are discussed.


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