The idea of someone falling asleep at the wheel is a frightening one. It takes constant attention to detail to safely operate a motor vehicle. When someone dozes off, they could cross the center line and head into oncoming traffic or simply lose control of their vehicle.
There are some rules in place to prevent the worst types of fatigue-related crashes. Commercial drivers, for example, are subject to Hours of Service rules so that their employers cannot force them to continue driving for so long that they would be unsafe at the wheel. However, no such rules exist for those in control of passenger vehicles, which means that fatigue is a persistent safety issue for motorists.
Quite a few motorists admit to dozing off at the wheel
The problem with trying to establish a rate of drowsy driving is that it requires honesty from the drivers engaging in unsafe behaviors. A motorist who fell asleep at the wheel is unlikely to admit as much to a police officer after a crash, and aren’t tests that can authoritatively establish that someone lost consciousness while driving. There may not be any evidence at all unless there is camera footage available of the incident.
Even self-reported data paints a relatively grim picture. A recent study asking drivers if they had ever fallen asleep at the wheel indicated that 17% of motorists say they have lost Consciousness while driving at least once at some point in their life. Perhaps more concerning is the research done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which found that one in 25 or roughly 4% of motorists would admit to falling asleep at the wheel at least once in the last 30 days.
The chances are good that many of those who drive while drowsy are habitual offenders who have multiple near misses each month. As if that weren’t concerning enough, people may not realize they have fallen asleep at the wheel may experience microsleep instead of dozing off and then dramatically jerking back into consciousness. There is no cure for fatigue at the wheel other than rest, although some people will try to mask their exhaustion with caffeine or other stimulants.
Those who are asleep at the wheel or so drowsy that they can’t drive safely put everyone else at risk of a crash. As a result, filing an insurance claim or possibly a personal injury lawsuit against a drowsy driver is sometimes necessary after fatigue-related collisions.