Drowsy Driving Car Accidents: Know the Dangers of Falling Asleep at the Wheel

A recent poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) revealed that 150,000 adult drivers admitted to falling asleep at the wheel at least once in the past thirty days—a startling statistic that sheds light on the seriousness of drowsy driving car accidents.

Although it’s difficult to attribute deaths to drowsiness, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that drowsy drivers cause up to 6,000 fatal car crashes each year.

To help bring awareness to the dangers of driving while sleepy, the National Sleep Foundation has introduced Drowsy Driving Prevention Week. Designated November 1—8, this special week aims to alert drivers to the serious consequences of operating a vehicle when sleepy.

In fact, just like alcohol and drug use, drowsiness causes slower reaction times, impaired judgment and decreased driving performance.

In order to prevent an accident from occurring due to drowsiness at the wheel, it’s important to be alert to the warning signs that may indicate you’re becoming too tired to drive safely. These signs include:

  • Restlessness and irritability
  • Daydreaming and wandering thoughts
  • Continued yawning
  • Delayed reaction time
  • Frequent blinking, heavy eyelids or rubbing your eyes
  • Difficulty keeping your head up
  • Difficulty staying in your lane or hitting the rumble strip on the shoulder

If you notice any of the warning signs above while driving, be sure to pull safely off the road as soon as possible and take a “power nap.” A power nap is a 15-20 minute nap that can effectively rejuvenate your mind and body which will allow you to continue on your journey safely.

Also, it’s important to get the recommended amount of sleep the night before travelling to help reduce the chances of driving while drowsy. The National Institutes of Health recommends adults get seven or more hours of sleep per night.

Additionally, don’t take medication that could impair your driving before hitting the road, and have a friend or family member be your co-pilot whenever possible. A co-pilot can help you drive safely, keep you awake, or remain alert to any signs of drowsiness you may present.