Drowsy Driving

You can't
 fight sleep

Drowsy driving is dangerous and potentially deadly. If you're already behind the wheel when you start to feel drowsy, the best remedy is to pull over and have a 15 minute powernap.

You may think you can push through drowsiness, but you can't fight sleep. All day, sleep inducing chemicals build up in your brain. They eventually reach a tipping point, sending you off to sleep, which can happen any time and anywhere. The best way to avoid drowsy driving is to get a good night's sleep.

When planning your Easter road trip, work out the best places to break your driving. Take advantage of the many free Driver Reviver facilities across Victoria. Most importantly, plan to get a good night’s sleep the night before you head off and again when you head home at the end of your break.

What is
drowsy driving?

Fatigue, including 'Drowsy Driving', is a contributing factor in between 16-20% of all road crashes in Victoria.

Drowsiness affects a driver's safety by decreasing their reaction time, their ability to concentrate and creates the very real risk of falling asleep at the wheel.

Drowsiness is the first sign that you're already falling asleep. All day, sleep-inducing chemicals build up in your brain. They eventually reach a tipping point, sending you off to sleep. You have no control over when or where that happens, and it can happen in an instant.

Some signs that you're already drowsy include winding down the window or turning up the radio to try and stay awake - neither of which will help. The only remedy for drowsiness is sleep.

It's important to get a good night's sleep before getting behind the wheel, and if you're already driving when you notice the first signs of drowsiness, the best remedy is to pull over and have a 15 minute powernap.
Read about the science of sleep
Read a case study of a crash involving drowsy driving

Does a
15 minute powernap work?

A 'Power nap' is a short nap between 15 – 30 minutes that is aimed at reducing sleep pressure. The nap can be taken after inadequate sleep in order to improve performance ("compensatory" nap) or it can be taken prior to shift work in anticipation of a long period of wake ("prophylactic" nap). For compensatory naps, studies have found that naps as short as 10 minutes can improve alertness temporarily.

A 15 minute powernap is like recharging your mobile phone.

Find out more about the science of sleep

What are the
signs of drowsiness?

Physiological signs of drowsiness:

  • Feeling sleepy
  • Frequent blinking, or heavy eyelids, and slow blinking
  • Slowing of brain activity
  • Eyes closing or going out of focus
  • Rubbing your eyes
  • Yawning may increase
  • Feeling restless 
  • Trouble keeping your head up or head nodding is a sign of severe drowsiness
  • The tendency to doze off when not active for a while; for example, when watching television or waiting in your car at a stop light.

Behavioural signs of drowsiness:

  • When driving - trouble remembering the last few kilometres driven, missing exits or traffic signs
  • When driving - drifting from your lane, tailgating, hitting a shoulder rumble strip or difficulty maintaining a consistent, correct speed
  • When driving - seeking stimulation in an effort to remain awake, such as winding down the window or turning up the radio
  • Difficulty focusing, shortened attention span
  • Slower reaction times
  • Poor concentration and reduced alertness
  • Mood changes (including irritability)
  • Reduced awareness of the environment and situation
  • Daydreaming or wandering/disconnected thoughts
  • Increased likelihood of mentally 'stalling' or fixating on one thought
  • Increase in errors

You can't fight sleep pit stop link

Ensuring you take a rest or have a power nap is important.
That's why during Victorian long weekends a number of driver reviver pit stop sites are set up around the state to ensure you stop and take a break during a long road trip.


As road users we can’t control everything on our roads and we can’t stop the unexpected but we can control our actions. Together we can work Towards Zero deaths and serious injuries on Victorian roads.

Related Articles

Every speed has a consequence, Rethink Speed
Rethink Speed

Our latest sharing the roads campaign encourages drivers and riders to look out for each other.

Read More