Falling Asleep Behind the Wheel: Am I Still Covered?

A tired driver is a hazard to the road and can cause mistakes behind the wheel of a car. Feeling drowsy or falling asleep can impair your reaction time, reduce awareness and hinder your judgment. Similar to drinking and driving, sleeping while operating a vehicle can injure or kill the driver or innocent victims and lead to serious fines or jail time.

Statistics of Sleep Related Accidents

Drowsiness or fatigue is the primary cause of over 150,000 law enforcement related crashes each year with the fatalities and injuries near 85,000. Many other sleep related accidents go unreported. Most people think that most of the crashes are caused by truckers, but you’ll find that out of all those accidents, a mere 1 percent are truck driver related. New Jersey has Maggie’s Law in place to protect innocent victims from sleep deprived drivers. The law was named after a 20-year-old student was killed by a driver who fell asleep. The law states that a drowsy driver qualifies as reckless behavior and if convicted of the crime, they may face exorbitant fines and jail time.

Falling Asleep Behind the Wheel

State Laws and Vehicle Insurance

State laws and vehicle insurance company regulations may vary, but if you doze behind the wheel of your car and cause a serious accident or fatalities, you would most likely be found at fault. A professional and knowledgeable Texas attorney or Virginia auto accident lawyer would be beneficial in representing your case and protecting your rights. They may even be able to get the charges dropped or reduced and help you stay out of jail.

Knowing When to Take a Break

A traffic safety survey found that nine out of ten drivers pulled over for intoxication had actually turned out to be a drowsy driver instead. Warning signs to look out for include the following:

  • Unable to remember the last few miles driven
  • Drift in the other lane or hit a rumble patch
  • Repeated yawning
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Narrowly miss crashing your vehicle

How to Avoid Falling Asleep at the Wheel

Fortunately, there are a variety of things that you can do to prevent yourself from dozing off while driving and causing an accident or injuring innocent victims that include the following:

  • Drink a caffeinated beverage
  • Pull over and find a safe place to take a nap
  • Get plenty of rest the night before a long road trip
  • Instead of driving straight through, stay overnight in a hotel room and drive during the daytime hours
  • Engage the other passengers in the vehicle in a round of stimulating conversation
  • If you’re alone while driving, turn up the volume on the radio and sing along
  • For those traveling long distances, pull over to a rest stop and take a break
  • Get out of the car and do some stretching exercises

Choosing to drive while drowsy is not an intentional malicious act or premeditation. However, it’s your choice not to pull over and if you continue to drive and fall asleep behind the wheel, you are showing negligence for the other parties on the road and irresponsible in your actions.

Image Credit: Flickr

Guest Author: Freelance writer Ieda Vincent enjoys informing others about safety and especially the importance of staying alert on the road.  If you have experienced a collision, contact a Virginia auto accident lawyer concerned with obtaining the highest compensation for your pain and anguish. Attorney David Benowitz has been regarded as one of DC’s top 100 trial lawyers and has a distinguished rating on AVVO.

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