sleepy driver

The Dangers of Falling Asleep While Driving

Falling asleep while driving is something no one ever plans on, but it is surprisingly common and can lead to significant hazards on the road. If you’re involved in a car accident and the other person was asleep while behind the wheel, your California car accident attorney may use this information to secure compensation for your injuries or property damages.

However, you must also be aware of the dangers of falling asleep while driving to better protect yourself against this possibility.

What Is Drowsy Driving and How Common is It?

According to the CDC, driving while at risk of falling asleep or “drowsy driving” is a significant problem in the US. Official statistics indicate that at least 1 in 25 adult drivers has fallen asleep to some capacity while driving over the last 30 days.

Furthermore, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that drowsy driving is responsible for approximately 800 deaths and 72,000 crashes per year. This organization also notes that up to 6000 fatal crashes may ultimately be due to drivers falling asleep while behind the wheel.

The Dangers of Driving While Drowsy

Being drowsy while driving, or falling asleep entirely while driving, is very dangerous for several key reasons:

  • Falling asleep while driving prevents you from reacting to road hazards or other drivers
  • Driving while drowsy slows down your reaction time, lowering the likelihood that you will steer or brake safely
  • Driving while drowsy also negatively impacts your ability to make good decisions

In other words, falling asleep while driving or even driving while drowsy makes an accident much more likely. 

Know the Warning Signs of Driving While Sleepy

Although driving while sleepy or falling asleep while driving can be very dangerous, you can protect yourself by identifying the warning signs and taking a break if you are at risk of drowsy driving. These risk factors and warning signs include:

  • Sleep deprivation, such as not getting enough sleep the night before or for several nights in a row. At the extreme, sleep deprivation can cause you to experience “microsleeps”, which involve falling asleep for very brief periods while behind the wheel
  • Sleep disorders such as insomnia or obstructive sleep apnea
  • Alcohol, as alcohol can disrupt your reaction time and decision-making abilities while increasing sleepiness as well
  • Certain medications, which may make you sleepier than normal
  • Driving in the middle of the night or the early morning, when your brain will still be under the effects of melatonin: a major sleep hormone

If you experience one or many of the above warning signs, you should pull over and get some sleep even if you have somewhere to be. It’s never worth risking your life for the life of another person to make some extra miles while you’re sleepy.

Want to know more, or do you want to know whether sleepy driving may affect an upcoming auto accident case? Contact us today for more information and a free consultation.