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What Are the Dangers of Falling Asleep at the Wheel?

Drowsy driving is a highly prevalent problem. Although researchers believe drowsy driving is under reported, statistics still show an average of over 72,000 car accidents involving tired drivers in the U.S. each year. As a driver in California, it is your duty not to drive if you feel too fatigued to safely get to your destination. Drowsy driving could be detrimental not only to your own well-being, but to that of everyone else on the roadway.

California Drowsy Driving Facts

Over a 10-year period, an estimated 41,228 people suffered injuries in drowsy driving crashes in California. The California Highway Patrol estimates an average of at least 100 deaths due to drowsy drivers each year. One in twenty-five adult drivers report falling asleep at the wheel in the previous 30 days. The true statistics for drowsy driving in California are likely much higher, but it is difficult for researchers to identify this as a primary cause of vehicle collisions. Certain people are more likely to drive drowsy:

  • Sleep-deprived drivers
  • Drivers with sleep apnea or insomnia
  • Drivers with undiagnosed sleep problems
  • Commercial vehicle drivers
  • Shift workers
  • Drivers traveling overnight
  • Drivers who take medications that cause drowsiness

Every driver in the state has a duty of care to others on the roadway. This duty is to reasonably prevent harm to other drivers, bicyclists, pedestrians, and road users. A driver’s duty involves knowing when he or she should not drive. For example, if the driver has imbibed alcoholic beverages or drugs – or if the driver has not gotten enough sleep. Breaking this duty of care could cause a deadly car accident in California.

Why Is Drowsy Driving So Dangerous?

Falling asleep at the wheel is so dangerous because it eliminates a driver’s ability to control his or her vehicle. It can be even more dangerous than drunk driving, because drowsiness can come on suddenly. A driver may not realize he or she is unfit to drive until it is too late and he or she has already dozed off at the wheel. Drunk driving, on the other hand, is something most drivers make the conscious decision to do. Drowsy drivers can lose the ability to make sound judgments, react quickly to changing roadway situations, and safely control their vehicles.

Tips for Avoiding Drowsy Driving

If you believe you are at risk of becoming a drowsy driver, take proactive steps to avoid causing an accident. First, recognize the signs of drowsiness. Frequent yawning and blinking, drifting out of your lane, hitting the rumble strips on the side of the road, forgetting the last few miles driven, and missing exits or turns are common signs of drowsy driving. If you notice these red flags, pull over and rest before getting back on the road. Caffeine, energy supplements, and tricks such as playing loud music are not safe alternatives to sleep when driving.

Prevent falling asleep at the wheel by getting plenty of sleep the night before a drive. Do not let trip preparations keep you up past your regular bedtime. Get at least eight full hours of sleep before a long drive or a night drive. Do not take any medications that could make you drowsy– especially cold or allergy medications. Receive treatment for any sleep disorders to help improve your sleep quality. Drive with someone else in the car to help keep you awake. Do not let your passenger sleep in the front seat. Instead, send him or her to the back seat for a nap.

If you will be driving more than 100 miles or for longer than two hours, schedule at least one break period to get out of the car and stretch your legs. Try to schedule your trip to avoid driving late at night or very early in the morning. If you do not trust yourself to complete a long drive without experiencing drowsy driving, consider using public transportation or carpooling instead.

If you were injured in an accident involving a distracted or drowsy driver, contact us at Estey & Bomberger, LLP about your case today! (619) 295-0035