What Is Drowsy Driving?

November 26, 2018

At least one in 25 drivers has fallen asleep behind the wheel in the past 30 days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Drowsy driving is a serious problem that remains largely underreported. It is often underreported due to the difficulty of assigning this as a cause of fatal collisions. What researchers do know is that it causes tens of thousands of car accidents every year. Do your part as a driver by expanding your knowledge and awareness on this subject and don’t drive if you’re too tired.

Defining Drowsy Driving

Drowsy driving does not only refer to falling asleep behind the wheel. One can be guilty of drowsy driving far before losing consciousness. Driving after not getting enough sleep, driving fatigued, and driving as you’re dozing off all qualify as drowsy driving. Operating a vehicle when you are too tired to keep your eyes open, pay attention to the road, or react in a reasonable amount of time to changing situations is a dangerous act of negligence. The following are common signs of drowsy driving:

  • Frequent yawning or blinking
  • Long, slow blinks
  • Trouble keeping eyes open
  • “Nodding off” – bobbing your head as you doze off
  • Trouble remembering the last few miles driven
  • Drifting in and out of the lane
  • Hitting the rumble strips on the side of the road
  • Braking too close to other vehicles
  • Missing turns or exits
  • Falling asleep while waiting in traffic or at a red light

If you have certain risk factors, you could be more likely to fall asleep behind the wheel. These factors include working the night shift, having sleep apnea or other sleep disorders, driving late at night or overnight, driving alone, and taking medications that could make you drowsy. The Sleep Education Center lists young men as the most likely culprits of drowsy driving. Men in their teens through 30s are most likely to get into drowsy driving accidents, based on national crash statistics. Pull over and get some rest the moment you notice any signs of drowsy driving.

Drowsy Driving Statistics

Drivers cannot ensure the safety of others on the road when they drive drowsy. It is impossible to dedicate 100% of your attention and keep your vehicle in control when you’re nodding off. Available data on drowsy driving shows that it caused at least 72,000 car accidents, 44,000 injuries, and 800 deaths in a single year. However, researchers estimate that up to 6,000 fatal car accidents could stem from drowsy driving each year. One report concluded that an estimated 5,000 people died in drowsy driving accidents in 2015.

Drowsy driving can cause an accident when a driver falls asleep behind the wheel, drifts into other lanes, drives through stop signs, goes the wrong way, rear-ends someone, or drives off the road and strikes an object. Drowsy driving collisions are often catastrophic. They often result in fatalities, as drivers who have fallen asleep don’t hit the brakes prior to impact. They are comparable to drunk driving accidents; studies show that going without sleep for 24 hours impairs a driver the same amount as a blood alcohol content level of 0.10%.

Drowsy Driving Laws

As data on drowsy driving becomes more readily available, many states are acting to reduce the number of tired drivers on the road. Although currently no such statute exists in Arizona, the Arizona Department of Public Safety aims to reduce drowsy driving by spreading information about the signs of this behavior, educating drivers on “sleep debt,” or cumulative sleep deprivation, and giving tips for creating an optimal sleep environment. Do your part to keep yourself and others safe by giving someone else the wheel if you’re too tired to drive. If you or a loved one was a victim in a drowsy driving accident, our Phoenix car accident lawyers can help. Contact us today to schedule your free initial consultation.