The Impact of Drowsy Drivers

“Impaired driving” is usually considered synonymous with drunk driving. But included within this phrase is drowsy driving: operation of a motor vehicle following insufficient sleep. The statistics on driving without enough rest are startling.

According to the National Sleep Foundation:

  • Half of U.S. adults admit they have driven while drowsy
  • 20% of adults admit they have fallen asleep while driving

But in an age when getting too little sleep is part of modern life, is drowsy driving really a problem? The answer is a definite yes. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 100,000 motor vehicle accidents each year are caused by drowsy driving. These accidents cause over 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries, and $12.5 billion in monetary losses. Those who live in urban areas such as Atlanta, GA are also more likely to fall asleep behind the wheel.

The real dangers may be even higher. There’s nothing like a Breathalyzer test to determine fatigue, so detecting it can be difficult. The states are also inconsistent in how they report drowsy driving.

However, we do know that certain groups are at risk more than others, says the National Sleep Foundation:

  • Young drivers, especially males aged 16-25 years
  • Shift workers (night, double, and rotating shifts)
  • Commercial drivers
  • Motorists with untreated sleep disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea
  • Business travelers

The effects of drowsy driving are often compared to those of drunk driving. Not getting enough sleep means slower reaction times, inattentiveness, and inability to avoid hazards while driving. Your risk of getting into an accident is increased because your ability to adjust to changing road conditions is decreased. And if you’re exhausted enough, you’re more likely to fall asleep behind the wheel – a recipe for certain disaster.

Driving in a city like Atlanta, GA is challenging enough without the added risk of fatigue. But beyond the obvious dangers, the National Sleep Foundation has uncovered secondary harms associated with drowsy driving. These include heightened stress while driving, more impatience behind the wheel, and a tendency to drive faster. All of these further increase the likelihood of a serious car accident.

There are warning signs that all drivers should consider before getting on the road:

  • Yawning, daydreaming, and wandering thoughts
  • Lack of focus
  • Inability to keep your eyes open or your head up
  • Drifting in your lane, missing exits, and tailgating
  • Feeling aggressive or restless while driving

These and other indications should be taken seriously. Wherever you need to drive, the risk of getting into a serious accident is simply not worth it. Get a good night’s rest before getting on the road. If you’re already driving and realize you’re too tired, pull over to a safe place and take a nap. Caffeine can help, but should not be relied upon too heavily. Also, be aware of possible side effects to medication that can cause drowsiness. And if possible, drive with a friend or family member, especially on extended trips.

Drowsy driving itself is not illegal under the criminal statutes of Georgia. But drivers can be held liable for causing accidents due to unsafe driving more generally. Motorists and passengers can claim civil damages in personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits. This right extends to family members in the event of a fatality. Employers who require their employees to drive unreasonably long hours may be held liable in some cases. The ability to pursue a claim against a negligent driver will vary on a case-by-case basis, so the facts of each accident are key.


Even if you take all reasonable precautions, you cannot control what other drivers do. Unfortunately, long commutes remain a staple of modern urban life – especially in Atlanta, GA. That means drowsy drivers do too. If a drowsy driver has injured you or a loved one, a car injury lawyer will be your strongest advocate. Contact Hammers Law Firm to speak with an experienced attorney today.