Go to navigation Go to content
Phone: 425-822-5700
Scott McDonald and Associates PLLC

Tips to Avoid the "Silent Killer" Preventing You from Sleeping at the Wheel and Causing a Washington Car Accident

This week a Tacoma couple were killed in a Washington single-car accident on the Mercer Island portion of I-90.  The husband was driving home from a long weekend camping trip in Eastern Washington when he fell asleep behind the wheel.  The car veered off the I-90 freeway and smashed into a guardrail and bridge railing.  Three other passengers including their 4 year-old son survived the horrible Mercer Island car accident.  

Washington State Patrol Tips for Avoiding Falling Asleep While Driving:

  • Pull over when you feel drowsy and let someone else drive.
  • Take a 15-20 minute nap and drink two cups of coffee when feeling tired driving. 
  • Limit driving between the hours of Midnight and 6:00 a.m. when the body in prone to feeling the most tired and sleepy.
  • Avoid drinking any alcoholic beverages, even small amounts. They can make you feel more tired.

Other good Tips:

  • Get a good night's sleep of eight or more hours if possible.
  • Stop every 2 hours to stretch your legs and get your blood circulating again.
At least 100,000 car accidents each year are a result of driver drowsiness and/or fatigue, resulting in 1,550 fatalities and 71,000 injuries, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  It's amazing the carnage isn't worse, considering a recent survey by Farmers Insurance. More than 10 percent of drivers admit to having fallen asleep at the wheel, while more than 20 percent say they have momentarily dozed while driving, according to the study of 1,024 drivers.

Sleepy at the wheel is often referred to as the "silent killer" because it is so often overlooked as the cause of an accident.  Drowsy driving's full effect is not yet known because reporting is imprecise, police are not trained to detect sleep-related crashes and there is no Breathalyzer-like test to determine whether someone was driving while dangerously drowsy.

Driving while sleepy is a dangerous problem and can cause fatal accidents just like driving under the influence of alcohol. Driving when you are sleepy lowers your reaction time, decreases your awareness, decreases your judgment and vision, decreases your performance and increases your risk of a car accident.

How do you know if your dangerous drowsy behind the wheel?  Some signs that you may be too tired to drive safely are daydreaming, yawning, heavy eyelids, drifting from your lane, hitting a rumble strip, difficulty focusing and trouble keeping your head up.

According to the WSP many drivers think that opening up the window or turning up the radio will help them stay awake, not so much says the WSP.  These techniques for staying awake have not yet been proven to be effective.