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Top 3 Dangers of Falling Asleep at the Wheel (Legally Explained)

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C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt

Schmidt & Clark, LLP is not currently accepting these types of cases and has posted this content for information purposes only. We encourage you to seek a qualified attorney, if you feel you might have a case.

Falling asleep while driving can happen to anyone, and it's more common than you might think. Being aware of the dangers of driving when tired is important for your safety.

As a legal attorney with almost a decade of experience in dealing with similar cases, I will tell you how to recognize the warning signs, what are the legal implications, and how to prevent drowsy driving accidents from happening in the first place.

Quick Summary

  • Drowsy driving poses a serious threat to everyone on the road, with over 6,400 fatalities in the US annually.
  • Recognize common warning signs of drowsy driving, such as trouble remembering recent events or drifting lanes, and take appropriate action by pulling over in a safe location.
  • Falling asleep behind the wheel can lead to legal repercussions, and victims may seek compensation for damages. 

What Are the Dangers of Falling Asleep at the Wheel?

A man sleeping behind the wheelThe dangers of falling asleep at the wheel are slower reaction times, impaired motor function, poor concentration, and increased risk of accidents.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that in 2017, there were 91,000 car crashes, 50,000 injuries, and 795 fatalities caused by drivers who have fallen asleep behind the wheel [1].

The risks of falling asleep while driving extend beyond the drowsy drivers. Other drivers, passengers, and pedestrians are also at risk.

Sleep deprivation can significantly impair a driver's ability to make sound decisions, coordinate their movements, and maintain vigilance [2].

Since swift reaction times are essential to safe traffic navigation, drowsy driving jeopardizes all road users' safety. It is usually the main cause of accidents in the cases I previously handled.

Related Article: Car Accident Lawsuit Update

What Is Drowsy Driving?

A drowsy driver in a carDrowsy driving is when someone operates a vehicle while experiencing extreme fatigue or drowsiness, which can significantly impair a driver's ability to stay alert and attentive on the road.

Drowsy driving is very common. Many drivers are affected by the widespread issue of drowsy driving, including drivers falling asleep at the wheel.

Approximately 4% of adult drivers report falling asleep in the past 30 days [3].

The causes of drowsy driving are multifaceted. Some common causes include:

  • Insufficient sleep
  • Untreated sleep disorders
  • Shift work
  • Prescription and over-the-counter sleep medicine
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Recognizing the Warning Signs of Drowsy Driving

A man wearing yellow shirt driving

 To prevent accidents, you must be able to identify the warning signs of drowsy driving.

Some common indicators of drowsiness include trouble remembering recent events or road signs, drifting lanes or hitting rumble strips, and frequent yawning and heavy eyelids [4].

1. Trouble Remembering

Difficulty recalling recent events or road signs can be a telltale sign of drowsiness. When a driver is tired, their attention and focus are compromised, making remembering crucial details about their surroundings challenging.

This impaired memory can lead to hazardous driving conditions and potential collisions.

2. Hitting A Rumble Strip Or Drifting Lanes

Drifting lanes or hitting rumble strips can indicate that a driver is not fully alert and focused on the road. These actions may indicate drowsy driving and pose a significant risk to the driver and others on the road.

3. Frequent Yawning And Heavy Eyelids

Frequent yawning and heavy eyelids are common indicators of drowsiness while driving. When a driver is tired, their body naturally tries to signal the need for rest through these physical signs.

"Drowsy driving accidents can be deadly, but they are preventable. Drivers who get enough sleep at night, drive with an alert passenger, and know when to take breaks can help avoid accidents caused by being overly tired."
- James R. Kearney, Attorney at Kearney, Freeman, Fogarty & Joshi, PLLC

Is Falling Asleep Behind The Wheel Illegal?

A sleepy man driving a carFalling asleep behind the wheel is not illegal in some jurisdictions, but it can still lead to serious legal consequences.

When a driver falls asleep at the wheel, they can be charged with reckless driving or negligence, as their actions pose a significant risk to themselves and others on the road.

Depending on the specific circumstances and jurisdiction, the penalties for these charges can range from fines to incarceration.

Drivers need to be aware of the laws around drowsy and drunk driving and take proactive measures to avoid falling asleep while driving.

Drowsy Driving Accidents: Legal Implications and Responsibilities

A driver having a conversation with a police

Legal implications of drowsy driving accidents can include the driver being held responsible for damages incurred and the possibility of victims seeking compensation for their losses.

Driver responsibility

Drivers are responsible for damages caused by drowsy driving accidents, including economic and non-economic damages.

1. Economic losses may include:

  • Medical expenses
  • Costs of personal care
  • Loss of income

2. Non-economic losses can include:

Seeking compensation

Victims of drowsy driving accidents can seek compensation through legal channels, such as filing a claim with the at-fault driver's insurance company or pursuing a personal injury lawsuit after a car accident.

An attorney with expertise in personal injury or car accidents can guide the legal process, helping to gather evidence and represent the victim in court hearings and negotiations.

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How to Keep Yourself From Falling Asleep While Driving?

To keep yourself from falling asleep while driving, you should get enough sleep before a trip, take breaks every two hours or 100 miles, and avoid alcohol or medications that cause drowsiness.

What Happens if You Fall Asleep Behind the Wheel?

If you fall asleep behind the wheel, it can lead to accidents, injuries, fatalities, and legal consequences such as charges of reckless driving or negligence. Reporting falling asleep incidents to raise awareness and promote safe driving habits is crucial.

Seek Legal Counsel for Accident Recovery Today

Securing legal counsel can provide numerous advantages if you or a loved one has been implicated in a drowsy driving accident.

An experienced attorney at Schmidt & Clark, LLP can offer expertise and knowledge to help you navigate the legal process and optimize your chances of receiving compensation for your damages.

If you have been affected by a drowsy driving accident, do not delay seeking legal advice.

The sooner you consult with a legal professional, the better your chances are for a successful resolution and the recovery of damages.