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The Hidden Dangers of Drowsy Driving

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Drowsy driving is a leading cause of injuries and fatalities on our roads every year.  Sleepiness while behind the wheel of a motor vehicle, or drowsy driving, can affect anyone who drives, at some point in time.

More knowledge about the reasons and repercussions of the phenomenon can enable prevention, with drivers trained to avoid risks associated with drowsy driving. Greater awareness can certainly go a long way in mitigating the problem, given the widespread sleep deprivation and disorders amongst adults in the country.

Is Drowsy Driving Common?

While there is no specific data regarding drowsy driving, some studies show that it is indeed very common. Some old studies indicated that almost 60 percent of adults have driven while feeling drowsy or sleepy at some point in time.

Dangers of Drowsy Driving

Drowsy driving substantially increases the possibility of car accidents. Microsleep is a condition in which a person snoozes for a few seconds. When microsleeps occur while driving, there are chances that the car could run off the road or hit another vehicle. The injuries and damage from such crashes can be devastating if they occur at high speeds.

Drowsy driving can prove to be risky even if the driver does not actually doze off behind the wheel. According to the studies, sleep deprivation and fatigue can cause mental impairment like driving under the influence. This impairment can lead a driver to distraction and being less aware of their surroundings. 

Drowsy driving slows down reaction times, making it difficult to recognize or avoid hazards on the road. Insufficient sleep and fatigue also affect decision-making, which results in drivers taking unnecessary risks behind the wheel.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data shows that drowsy driving led to more than 91,000 accidents in 2017, leading to almost 50,000 injuries and 800 fatalities. Likely, the accident and injury figures could be much higher as it is often not possible to positively identify drowsy driving as the cause behind the crash.

Reasons Behind Drowsy Driving

Here are some of the major causes behind drowsy driving:

Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation or lack of sleep causes excessive sleepiness during the daytime, which in turn may activate microsleeps. The recommended sleep for an adult is seven to nine hours each night, but the problem arises as a substantial number do not follow an ideal sleep regimen.

Sleep Disorders

There are many sleep disorders, like sleep apnea, that can go undiagnosed but can still lead to drowsiness during the daytime.


Imbibing alcohol can cause drowsiness and adversely affect a person’s reflexes as well as decision-making abilities. 


Many medications, including over-the-counter medicines, prescription drugs, and dietary supplements may cause grogginess the morning after.

Time of the Day

Drowsy driving accidents occur mostly in the late hours between midnight and six in the morning, or in the middle of the afternoon. These are the two times of the day when drowsiness and sleepiness are at their peak.

Who is More at Risk of Accidents Related to Drowsy Driving?

  • People who depend on driving for their livelihoods such as truckers and bus drivers
  • People who work night shifts, irregular shifts, and long hours
  • People who have sleep disorders such as insomnia
  • Teenagers who have irregular sleeping habits and little driving experience

Signs of Sleepiness While Driving That You Should Not Ignore

In case you recognize any of the following signs of sleepiness and fatigue while driving, you must look for the next possible place to stop and rest, before driving further:

  • Yawning frequently
  • Dozing off and feeling sleepy
  • Blinking repeatedly
  • Inadvertently drifting into other lanes
  • Unable to recall last few miles
  • Missing exits or road signs
  • Following cars too closely
  • Unable to maintain the required speed

You must take these signs very seriously as they are the warning signals of your drowsiness.

Ways to Avoid Drowsy Driving

Before Driving

  • Break down the trip in smaller sections, especially if it is a long drive
  • Avoid the drowsiest times, such as mid-afternoon and early hours of the morning
  • Make provisions to break the journey for rest at regular intervals
  • Sleep well the night before, and ideally several nights leading up to the trip
  • Avoid alcohol, drugs, or any other sedatives
  • Persuade a travel companion to come along for company

While Driving

  • Be watchful for the warning signs
  • Use caffeine as a stimulant to stay alert
  • Do not indulge in tricks to keep yourself awake

Develop Healthy Sleep Habits

Focus on sleep hygiene, including keeping a watch on your body’s circadian rhythm and synchronizing your sleeping patterns with it. Maintain a fixed sleep schedule, limit your use of electronic gadgets, and maintain a quiet, dark space in your bedroom for conducive sleep. In addition, consult your physician if you have sleep disorder problems like insomnia or sleep apnea.

Kentucky Accident Attorney for a Drowsy Driving Crash Victim

If you or someone you love is the victim of a drowsy driving accident, you will need an experienced lawyer to help you secure fair compensation for your injuries. A skilled attorney can help expose signs of fatigue on the part of a driver, or even a trucking company pushing its drivers with unreasonable deadlines.

At John H. Ruby & Associates, our attorneys can negotiate with the at-fault driver’s insurance company so that you can focus on your recovery without any additional stress. Call us today at (502) 373-8044 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.