Man yawning while driving.

The Dangers of Drowsy Driving

What is Drowsy Driving?

Drowsy driving is “the combination of driving and sleepiness or fatigue,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Drowsy driving typically occurs when a driver has not slept enough, but it can also be caused by untreated sleep disorders, medications, substance use, or working in shifts. Even without falling asleep at the wheel, drowsy driving is dangerous. Read on to learn more about drowsy driving statistics, the impact drowsy driving has on drivers, and what you can do to avoid driving drowsy.

Drowsy Driving Kills

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 100,000 police-reported, drowsy driving crashes result in 800 fatalities and 50,000 injuries annually. Crashes that resulted due to drowsy driving often:

  • Occur between midnight and 6 a.m. or late in the afternoon.
  • Occur on rural roads and highways.
  • Involve a single driver without passengers running off the road at a high speed with no evidence of braking.
  • Involve a male driver under the age of 30 years old, as young males account for two-thirds of all drowsy driving accidents.

Drowsy Driving and Impaired Driving

The effects drowsiness has on a driver are similar to the effects of alcohol, making drowsy driving similar to impaired driving. The NHTSA reports that:

  • Drivers’ reaction times, awareness of hazards, and alertness worsen the drowsier the driver.
  • Going more than 20 hours without sleep impacts the driver’s body the same way a 0.08% blood-alcohol concentration would.
  • Drivers are three times more likely to be involved in a car accident if fatigued.

Know the 6 Telltale Signs

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), six symptoms of drowsy driving include:

  1. Frequent yawning or difficulty keeping your eyes open.
  2. "Nodding off" or having trouble keeping your head up.
  3. Inability to remember driving the last few miles.
  4. Missing road signs or turns.
  5. Difficulty maintaining your speed.
  6. Drifting out of your lane.

How to Avoid Drowsy Driving: In the Moment

If you recognize any signs of drowsy driving, you should immediately pull over and seek a short-term solution. Ideally, you should rest until you are no longer feeling sleepy. However, The AASM recommends the following regarding last-resort short-term options:

  • DO: Drink a caffeinated beverage.
  • DO NOT: Turn up the radio, roll down the window, and turn up the AC to increase alertness. These are ineffective solutions.

How to Avoid Drowsy Driving: Preventative Measures

During the holiday season, accidents increase due to an increase in the following factors: impaired driving, distracted driving, drowsy driving, inclement weather, and traffic (both motor vehicle and pedestrian). The NHTSA recommends the following tips to ensure that you and your loved ones are safe from drowsy driving this holiday season:

  • Get adequate sleep the night before a long drive. If you have a late night before a long drive due to nerves or last-minute touches, delay driving until you feel clear-headed.
  • Avoid drinking any alcoholic beverages before driving. Alcohol increases both drowsiness and impairment.
  • Check the side effects of your prescriptions and over-the-counter medication. Unfortunately, the side effects of prescriptions are not always well-known to those taking them.
  • Avoid driving when you would typically be sleeping, such as late at night or early in the morning.
  • Carpool. Having a buddy to keep you alert and share the driving will reduce the chances of you nodding off or being stuck sleepy behind the wheel.

Have You Been in an Accident? We Can Help.

If you or someone you love have been in an accident due to a drowsy driver, it is important that you contact an experienced accident attorney as soon as possible due to statutes of limitations on car accident claims. At Katz Law we will fight to protect your rights and help to ensure that you receive the maximum compensation that you rightfully deserve.

Call our firm today at (270) 778-0020 for a free, confidential consultation, or fill out this short form.