You Snooze, You Lose When it Comes to Drowsy Driving

car accident

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That’s the message the Franklin County Sheriff’s office has for sleepy drivers.

Early Sunday morning, the man driving the car pictured here, fell asleep on his way home from work. His car left the road and hit a guard-rail before rolling over. Fortunately, the driver was wearing a seatbelt and survived the crash.

It’s a wake-up call to everyone on the road that drowsy driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving. Sheriff’s deputies say that even though this driver was lucky enough to walk away from a collision that totaled his vehicle, it’s better to pull over if you’re feeling sleepy.

More Common than We Realize

Long yawns. Eyes feeling heavy. Scenery blurring into darkness–all before the next exit! Drowsy driving is a common problem for drivers across the country. In fact, studies estimate that 1 in 25 adult drivers have admitted to falling asleep while driving the past 30 days!

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that this drowsy driving epidemic is responsible to at least 72,000 crashes, 44,000 injuries, and 800 death in 2013 alone. The NHTSA also believes that these numbers are very conservative with actual numbers being as high as 6,000 fatalities attributed to drivers falling asleep at the wheel.

Who is Likely to be a Drowsy Driver?

Surveys and studies show which group of drivers are more at risk for potentially snoozing on the road. The universal culprit is drivers who do not get enough sleep. Simple enough, right? But it goes a little further than this, by identifying which drivers are more at risk than others.

Commercial drivers who operate vehicles such as tow trucks, tractor trailers, and buses, are high on the list of perpetually tired drivers. Often they will team-drive and extend their workday into late nights and early mornings to drive when there is less congestion in urban areas. Trying to get into a healthy sleep pattern on the road is also difficult for these drivers.

Shift workers are also more susceptible to tired drives. That may include graveyard shifts, as well as those who work long shifts or late swing-shifts. Workers that alternate between days and graves are at higher risk for drowsy driving because their natural sleep cycle is consistently interrupted, causing exhaustion and palpable lethargy. Long drives in this state are particularly dangerous.

Drowsy Driving Can Be More Than Just Sleepy

drowsy driving

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Researchers estimate that more than 70 million Americans suffer from some kind of a sleep disorder. Some of the major contributing factors in motor vehicle accidents are fatigue as a result of sleep disorders (especially obstructive sleep apnea), excessive workloads, and a lack of physical and mental rest. Being chronically tired decreases a driver’s alertness and ability to react to typical driving conditions.

Adversely, repetitive motion can lull tired drivers into a sleep-like trance, which creates a greater chance for accidents or a slowed response to a stimulus.

In the case of a large percentage of the country using sleep aids, there are findings that show the residual effects of hypnotic drugs, like Ambien or zolpidem, lingering in the body’s system longer than anticipated, and may contribute to reducing daytime alertness and having adverse effects on driving performance.

Wake Up to the Signs of Drowsy Driving

Getting tired already? Here are some signs that should tell a driver to stop and rest:

  • Difficulty focusing, frequent blinking, or heavy eyelids
  • Daydreaming; wandering/disconnected thoughts
  • Trouble remembering the last few miles driven; missing exits or traffic signs
  • Yawning repeatedly or rubbing your eyes
  • Trouble keeping your head up
  • Drifting from your lane, tailgating, or hitting a shoulder rumble strip
  • Feeling restless and irritable

For more tips and information, check out the National Sleep Foundation’s Key Messages and Talking Points on Drowsy Driving or visit

Take a Nap

Everybody needs adequate sleep on a daily basis. Lack of sleep adds up over time to fatigue and exhaustion, both of which can affect your coordination, judgment, and reaction time while driving. Deficiency in these abilities is known as cognitive impairment, which is much like the side effects of alcohol or drugs. Studies have shown that going without sleep can impair your ability to drive in much the same way as drinking too much alcohol. Either of these conditions can be life-threatening or fatal behind the wheel of a moving vehicle.

It’s important to remember that safety is a choice. When you notice the warning signs of drowsy driving, pull over to a safe place and rest. That may be just a quick walk or a pick-me-up drink, or a 15-20 minute nap. If you are traveling with others, trading seats and letting someone else drive is a bonus!  A few extra minutes is worth arriving alive!

Our Auto Accident & Personal Injury Lawyers are Here to Help

If you or a loved one have been hurt or injured in a motor vehicle crash caused by a drowsy driver, call Fielding Law Group today for a free appointment and review of your case.  Consulting with a personal injury attorney is one of the best ways to determine your legal rights after an accident. Our experienced auto accident attorneys and legal team at Fielding Law Group will fight and get the compensation you are entitled to for injuries caused by an at-fault driver. Remember–Don’t let an accident wreck YOU!