Background: Many people who use hypnotics are outpatients and are likely to drive a car the day after drug intake. The purpose of these meta-analyses was to determine whether or not this is safe. Methods: Placebo-controlled, randomized, double-blind trials were selected if using the on-the-road driving test to determine driving ability the day following one or two nights of treatment administration. Primary outcome measure of the driving test was the Standard Deviation of Lateral Position (SDLP); i.e., the weaving of the car. Fixed effects model meta-analyses were performed. Effect size (ES) was computed using mean standardized (weighted) difference scores between treatment and corresponding placebo SDLP values. Results: Ten studies, published from 1984 to 2002 (207 subjects), were included in the meta-analyses. The morning following bedtime administration, i.e. 10-11 hours after dosing, significant driving impairment was found for the recommended dose of various benzodiazepine hypnotics (ES=0.42; 95% Confidence Interval (CI)=0.14 to 0.71). Twice the recommended dose impaired driving both in the morning (ES=0.68; CI=0.39 to 0.97) and afternoon, i.e. 16-17 hours after dosing (ES=0.57; CI=0.26 to 0.88). Zopiclone 7.5 mg also impaired driving in the morning (ES=0.89; CI=0.54 to 1.23). Zaleplon (10 and 20 mg) and zolpidem (10 mg) did not affect driving performance the morning after dosing. Following middle-of-the-night administration, significantly impaired driving performance was found for zopiclone 7.5 mg (ES=1.51, CI=0.85 to 2.17), zolpidem 10 mg (ES=0.66, CI=0.13 to 1.19) and zolpidem 20 mg (ES=1.16, CI=0.60 to 1.72). Zaleplon (10 and 20 mg) did not affect driving performance. Conclusions: The analyses show that driving a car the morning following nocturnal treatment with benzodiazepines and zopiclone is unsafe, whereas the recommended dose of zolpidem (10 mg) and zaleplon (10 mg) do not affect driving ability.