How to Avoid Motorists Falling Asleep at the Wheel

man falling asleep at the wheel

Distracted driving is not the only hazard on the road — motorists falling asleep at the wheel can quickly turn your commute deadly. So how does drowsy driving occur? Casey, Devoti & Brockland’s auto crash attorneys unveiled the highest risk factors involved in falling asleep at the wheel and what you can do to keep yourself safe.

Falling Asleep at the Wheel 

Car crashes resulting from falling asleep at the wheel are more common than you think. A CDC survey found that 1 in 25 adult drivers (18 years old or older) reported falling asleep while driving in the previous 30 days. If you get drowsy while driving, it is best to keep that in mind before you hit the road.

Generally, we would attribute incidents to a few factors, including:

  • Tiredness. The most obvious answer to drowsy driving is people not getting enough high-quality sleep. Maybe the individual was kept up by their kids, overworked or stayed up later than they should have. 
  • Boredom. Boredom makes us sleepy. Without proper breaks or engaging activities to break up the monotony, a driver may drift off over time.
  • Fatigue. Engaging in the same task over an extended period of time may be exhausting for our brains. For long-haul drivers or roadtrippers, fatigue impairs your ability to operate a motor vehicle properly.

Additionally, we have found that some groups may be more likely to fall asleep at the wheel than others. Our auto crash attorneys would divide up these parties by:

  • Commercial motor vehicle drivers. Driver fatigue is a continual problem for commercial truck drivers. The Large Truck Crash Causation Study (LTCCS) revealed that nearly 13 percent of commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers were fatigued at the time of their crash.
  • Less experienced drivers. Young drivers have less experience driving for long periods of time. The National Sleep Foundation found that 55% of drowsy driving crashes involve those under 25 years old — drivers aged 16-25 years remain at the highest risk of falling asleep at the wheel.
  • Long-distance drivers. Roadtrippers may take on more than what they can handle. Cross-country road trips may result in an accident, especially if the drive continues through the night. 
  • Those who have just eaten. A full meal alters hormones and changes blood sugar levels — as the body focuses energy on digesting a meal, a motorist may feel sleepier than usual.

Signs of a Drowsy Driver 

In our experience as auto crash attorneys, defensive driving is the best way to keep yourself and your passengers safe. Every time you hit the road, you must stay vigilant of the potential hazards before you. There are a few surefire signs a neighboring motorist may be dozing off behind the wheel, such as:

  • Drifting between lanes. If a motorist is irregularly moving back and forth, they may be periodically drifting off behind the wheel.
  •  Inconsistent speed. If a motorist cannot maintain their speed, they may be jolting themselves back to reality and overcorrecting by speeding up or slowing down.

For those who have seen the Disney movie “Cars,” picture Mack the truck. As he falls asleep on the road, he slows down, swerves and takes actions that an alert driver normally would not. Like Mack, drowsy drivers can be unpredictable.

Falling asleep at the wheel does not legally excuse a motorist’s actions. The ingestion of medication may be suggested as a defense in this situation — however, medications come with warnings. A very careful person would know the side effects of their own medication and take caution to avoid dangerous situations. The admission of taking a drowsy medication rarely helps an offender’s case.

Avoid Dozing Off While Driving

After hearing about the dangers of drowsy driving, you may wonder if you are at risk of falling asleep at the wheel. If you get drowsy while driving, it is best to:

  • Drive earlier rather than later. Your body is generally programmed to sleep at night. Darkness may encourage your mind to wander and your body to drift off to sleep.
  • Limit total time behind the wheel. If you have a long drive ahead, we recommend consistently limiting your time driving.
  • Get physical during your breaks. Your body needs to be engaged to snap out of tiredness. We recommend taking breaks to get out of the car, take a walk or do any other activity that will engage your body and mind.
  • Keep yourself engaged while driving. Though driving, you can keep yourself awake through passive activities. Playing music, listening to podcasts and even singing in the car can help your mind stay active.
  • Have a caffeinated beverage. For those who drink caffeine, an energy drink or cup of coffee may help you stay alert.

Whether you caused a crash or were an unsuspecting victim, a seasoned auto crash attorney will be your most important asset moving forward. If you or a loved one is injured in a car crash, we urge you to contact Casey, Devoti & Brockland for a free consultation. 

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