The True Cost of Drowsy Driving Accidents


Drowsy driving is a dangerous mistake. It happens when you drive when you haven’t slept enough, stay up too late, or feel sleepy due to the effects of medications, alcohol, or shift work. When you’re driving drowsy, you’re less able to pay attention to the road, have a slower reaction time, and have a lowered ability to make good decisions.Drowsy driving costs billions, and is responsible for thousands of fatal deaths each year.

The Financial Toll of Drowsy Driving

Drowsy driving is responsible for an estimated $109 billion in societal costs each year. That’s doesn’t include property damage including vehicles, just the cost of emergency services, insurance administration, lost productivity and medical and legal services.

Lives Lost to Drowsy Driving

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 6 percent of crashes each year involve a drowsy driver, which accounts for 328,000 crashes each year. That includes 109,000 annual drowsy driving crashes with injuries, and 6,400 fatal drowsy driving crashes.

How Drowsy Driving Happens

An estimated one in 25 adult drivers report falling asleep while driving within the previous 30 days. People who snore at night, or usually sleep for six hours or less each night are more likely to report falling asleep while driving.

People who are the most likely to drive drowsy include:

  • Drivers who don’t sleep enough

  • Shift workers on long shifts or night shifts

  • Drivers who use medications that can cause drowsiness

  • Commercial drivers operating vehicles including tow trucks, 18 wheelers, and buses

  • Drivers with untreated sleep disorders, including insomnia and sleep apnea

Are You at Risk of Drowsy Driving?

If you’re not sleeping enough, or you’re among those who are most likely to drive drowsy, you should take extra care to understand the warning signs of drowsy driving and avoid it.

Common warning signs of drowsy driving include:

  • Inability to focus

  • Frequently yawning

  • Frequently blinking

  • Bobbing your head

  • Trouble remembering the last stretch of road you’ve driven

  • Drifting from your lane or hitting a rumble strip

  • Missing your exit

What to do if You’re Too Sleepy to Drive

If you suspect you’re driving drowsy, take action immediately while it’s still safe to do so. Some steps you can take while you’re out on the road include:

  • Change drivers

  • Pull over for coffee

  • Pull over to stretch

  • Take a 20 minute nap or rest

  • Stop for the night at a hotel

Turning up the radio or opening a window aren’t effective, and can give you a false sense of security. It’s safest to pull over if you’re feeling too sleepy to drive well.

How to Prevent Drowsy Driving

Drowsy driving is tough to correct once it happens. It’s safest to stop it from happening in the first place. Sleep is the best way to prevent drowsy driving and stay safe on the road at all hours of the day and night.

  • Make a commitment to sleep well. Make sleep a priority and give yourself eight hours of time to sleep. Most adults need seven to seven and a half hours, so scheduling eight hours gives you time to settle down at night and wake up in the morning.

  • Get treatment for sleep disorders. If you regularly struggle to fall asleep, stay asleep, or have other signs of sleep disorders such as heavy snoring, talk to your doctor. Treating sleep disorders such as insomnia and sleep apnea can help you get a better night’s sleep and be safer on the road.

  • Take care with medications. Some medications can cause drowsiness. You should avoid driving if you’re taking medication that makes you drowsy. Always read warning labels to understand the side effects of the medications you’re taking, even ones that you’re only taking for a short period of time. If you regularly take medication that causes drowsiness, talk to your doctor about taking it in the evening when you’re at home so you’re not at risk of feeling drowsy during the day.

If you or somebody you know were injured as a result of another driver who may have nodded off at the wheel, please contact the Law Offices of Michael O. Smith to determine your rights