Is Driving While Tired Illegal?

Posted on by Defensive Driving | in Defensive Driving Tips


In 2017 Texas outlawed texting while driving. They also allowed cities to set stricter rules, including making it illegal to use a phone while driving at all. And this was done for an important reason. Over 3,000 people died as the result of distracted driving in 2019 alone according to the NHTSA. When talking about defensive driving and safe driving habits, we often talk about active distractions like texting. Passive distractions are more easily overlooked, but are deadly and illegal also.

“Drowsy Driving” is the term for driving while impaired due to sleepiness or fatigue, and it’s also illegal. The most common causes include being tired from lack of sleep, prescription or over-the-counter medications. Driving while tired is similar to driving while intoxicated. Your reaction times are slowed. Decision-making is affected. Occasionally drivers will even fall asleep for a few moments. This is called a “micro sleep”.
Often drivers will recognize that they’re tired but try to push through with coffee or an energy drink. At the point though, you may already be driving impaired.

A core component of being a defensive driver is recognizing and adjusting your behavior behind the wheel to be more responsible. The NHTSA estimates that each year there are 100,000 accidents and 70,000 injured that occurred in-part because of drowsy driving. Many of those crashes were preventable if the driver would have been better rested. Some of the recommended things you can do to prevent an accident from drowsy driving are:

  1. Get enough sleep the night before any trip (7-9 hours is the usual recommendation)
  2. When planning a road-trip, you’re safer with a passenger to help drive in shifts
  3. If you feel yourself falling asleep, pull over at a rest stop or other well-lit safe location for a quick nap
  4. If you’re driving during the night and early-morning, be extra cautious of how awake and alert you are. Drifting out of your lane or driving over the rumble strips on a freeway are signs that you may be falling asleep.

So is it illegal to drive while tired? It can be, yes. Reckless driving is illegal regardless of if it’s due to alcohol, medicine or lack of sleep. Being tired by itself is not a crime, but your actions as a result of drowsy driving certainly can be. A drowsy driver could face charges for reckless driving, failure to maintain their lane, or even felony charges if your reckless driving resulted in injury or harm to another person.

“Drowsy Driving Prevention Week” was November 7th through 13th. The goal of it is to promote the awareness of the risks of impaired driving. As a defensive driving course, our mission is to improve driver safety and save lives. If you ever feel too tired to keep driving, pull over. That decision could save your life.


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