Insomnia, Drowsy Driving and Car Accidents: What To Do If You’re Drowsy and Driving

Updated October 2022

One in three adults suffer from sleep deprivation and/or insomnia and sleep deprivation-caused driving accidents impact approximately 328,000 drivers per year, resulting in an estimated 50,000 injuries and 800 deaths. Drowsy driving is most prevalent between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m., but also in the late afternoon when our circadian rhythms tend to dip.

drowsy driving

Here are signs to watch out for when you’re behind the wheel: 

Signs of Drowsy Driving

  • Frequent yawning or blinking 
  • Feelings of “nodding off” 
  • Difficulty keeping your head upright 
  • Trouble remembering the last few miles you’ve driven 
  • Missing an exit or road sign 
  • Following other cars too closely 
  • Drifting into the other lane or hitting rumble strips 

If you’re experiencing any of these signs, don’t ignore them! Take action to protect yourself and others on the road. 

So, what do you do if you’re driving and sleepiness sets in? According to the National Sleep Foundation, there are things you can do to counteract sleepy driving.

Tips To Counteract Drowsy Driving

  • Get adequate sleep on a daily basis, as this is the only true way to protect yourself from the risks of driving while drowsy. 
  • If you’re already on the road and you feel drowsy, stop driving. 
  • Pull off the road and take a nap for at least 15 to 20 minutes in a safe, lighted area. This has been shown to increase alertness in scientific studies, but you should take more time if needed. 
  • Take frequent breaks at rest areas or Travel Plazas. 
  • Always ensure adequate sleep (7 to 9 hours for adults, 8 to 10 hours for teens) the night before a big trip. 
  • Time your drives around peak sleepiness periods. Avoid driving in the late afternoon and between midnight and 6 a.m. If this is not possible, be as vigilant as possible while you’re behind the wheel and watch for warning signs that you’re feeling drowsy. 
  • Know your medications and their side effects. Both prescription and non-prescription (over-the-counter) medicines can cause drowsiness and impairment. Be aware that your medications, or any combination of them, can affect your ability to drive safely. 
  • Avoid alcohol, as this will only increase drowsiness as well as impairment of your ability to drive. 
  • Avoid marijuana. Although personal use of cannabis products has been decriminalized in some states, “buzzed” driving is still illegal and it will negatively affect your awareness and alertness especially if you’re already sleepy.  
  • Taking cannabidiol (CBD) products and driving can also be dangerous, as they can cause sleepiness, sedation, and lethargy. 
  • Travel with someone and share driving responsibilities. 
  • Commercial drivers should not exceed their hours-of-service driving and should take their required breaks. 
  • Take a break every two hours or 100 miles while on a long trip. 
  • If you drink caffeine, in either coffee, tea, or energy drinks, be aware that the effects of caffeine are short-term, and you may not be as alert as you think you are. If you drink coffee and are seriously sleep-deprived, you still may have “micro sleeps” or brief losses of consciousness that can last for four or five seconds. This means that at 55 miles per hour, you’ve traveled more than 100 yards down the road while asleep. That’s plenty of time to cause a crash. 

Get Help From An Auto Accident Attorney

If another driver’s recklessness caused you or your passengers harm, call Martin, Harding & Mazzotti, today. Our experienced team of auto accident attorneys is committed to ensuring aggressive representation for all its clients and is available to provide answers to your questions and to make sure your rights are protected. Contact us today for a free case evaluation by calling 1-800-LAW-1010 (1-800-529-1010). We’re here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to take your call or use our convenient online contact form here. 

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