Study objectives were to determine the prevalence of sleepy driving accidents and to explore the factors associated with near-miss driving accidents and actual driving accidents in France. An epidemiological survey based on telephone interviews was conducted on a representative sample of French drivers. The questionnaire included sociodemographics, driving and sleep disorder items, and the Epworth sleepiness scale. Of 4774 drivers (response rate: 86%), 28% experienced at least one episode of severe sleepiness at the wheel (i.e. requiring to stop driving) in the previous year; 11% of drivers reported at least one near-miss accident in the previous year (46% sleep-related); 5.8% of drivers reported at least one accident, 5.2% of these being sleep related (an estimate of 90,000 sleep-related accidents per year in France). Sleepy driving accidents occurred more often in the city (53.8%), during short trips (84.6%) and during the day (84.6%). Using logistic regression, the best predictive factor for near-misses was the occurrence of at least one episode of severe sleepiness at the wheel in the past year [odds ratio (OR) 6.50, 95% confidence interval (CI), 5.20-8.12, P < 0.001]. The best predictive factors for accidents were being young (18-30 years; OR 2.13, 95% CI, 1.51-3.00, P < 0.001) and experiencing at least one episode of severe sleepiness at the wheel (OR 2.03, 95% CI, 1.57-2.64, P < 0.001). Sleepiness at the wheel is a risk factor as important as age for traffic accidents. Near-misses are highly correlated to sleepiness at the wheel and should be considered as strong warning signals for future accidents.
© 2010 European Sleep Research Society.