Falling asleep at the wheel, also called drowsy driving, is a big problem on the road. Drowsy driving is the combination of driving and sleepiness/fatigue and the rate of occurrence is staggering. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (https://www.cdc.gov/features/dsdrowsydriving/index.html), an estimated 6,000 fatal crashes a year may be caused by drowsy drivers. Read on to learn what causes a driver to fall asleep at the wheel and what can be done to prevent it.


The primary cause of drowsy driving is a lack of sleep. There are a variety of reasons that a driver may have a lack of sleep, including:

  • Sleep Loss. It is recommended to sleep 7 to 9 hours a night. Anything less can cause sleep deprivation.
  • Sleep Disorders. If untreated, disorders such as sleep apnea, narcolepsy, and restless leg syndrome can lead to drowsy driving.
  • Jobs. People working long shifts, overnight shifts, or more than one job are prone to experience sleepiness on their commute.
  • Alcohol/Medication. Certain substances may induce or exacerbate sedation.
  • Biological Clock. Our human brains regulate themselves to rest during the mid-afternoon and at night, making these time frames more susceptible to drowsy drivers.

Warning Signs

It is important to recognize the warning signs of a drowsy driver, both in yourself and others. If you observe any of the below behaviors, pull over and stop driving.

  • Yawning or blinking frequency
  • Not remembering how you arrived
  • Missing a turn or exit
  • Drifting lanes
  • Hitting the rumble strip
  • Driving too slowly
  • Delayed reaction times


Driving while drowsy doesn’t just put the driver at risk, it creates a dangerous environment for other people in the car, other drivers on the road, pedestrians, cyclists, etc.


It can be relatively easy to avoid falling asleep at the wheel, just keep the following tips in mind:

  • Get 7-9 hours of sleep each night
  • Create a consistent sleep schedule
  • Seek treatment for sleep disorders
  • Avoid Alcohol & Sedatives
  • Avoid traveling very late at night & very early in the morning
  • Take Frequent Breaks
  • Make conversation with a passenger
  • Share driving with another person
  • Listen to upbeat music
  • Keep the car cool
  • Maintain good posture
  • Consider public transportation instead

If you or a loved one have been injured by a driver who fell asleep at the wheel, consult with a car accident lawyer to see what your options are.