Zaneta Wood, Ed.S. has over 15 years of experience in research and technical writing bringing a keen understanding of data analysis and information synthesis to reach a wide variety of audiences. She studied adult education and instructional technology at Appalachian State University as well as technical and professional communication at East Carolina University. Zaneta has prepared technical p...

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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He has an MBA from the University of South Florida. Jo...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder & CFP®

UPDATED: Sep 15, 2020

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Car Insurance and Drowsy Driving Summary
Drowsy Driving FactsDetailsSource
Drowsy Driving Leads to AccidentsNearly 100,000 crashes yearly involve drowsy driving.The National Safety Council
Drowsy Driving Can Lead to A Reckless Driving TicketReckless driving tickets can lead to an average annual insurance rate increase of $1036.Quadrant Data
Drowsy Driving RiskDrowsy Driving can be just as dangerous as driving while impaired. American Automobile Association
Drowsy Driving and InsuranceCollision or liability insurance will usually cover drowsy driving incidents as long as there is no unreported medical condition. Various Insurance Companies
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Here's what you need to know...

  • Falling asleep at the wheel should be covered under a liability policy
  • Collision insurance may need to be purchased to cover damage to your car
  • Be sure the policy is in good standing to increase the likelihood of the insurance claim being approved
  • Do everything to avoid falling asleep at the wheel

Driving comes with risks. Sometimes, the reason can be something as unexpected as falling asleep at the wheel. We have put together this guide to help you understand your car insurance policy and what might happen if you fell asleep while driving.

If you have questions like, does sleep apnea affect your car insurance? You’re in the right place. Sleeping conditions can impact your insurance rates and could complicate your accident claim. In the aftermath of such an accident, the driver may wonder, “is falling asleep at the wheel covered by car insurance?”

If you want to be fully covered in case of an incident of falling asleep at the wheel or you just need better insurance, use our free tool above to compare rates.

Table of Contents

What happens if I fall asleep at the wheel?

It can happen to anyone. With our busy lives and everything else going on, many of us are not sleeping enough every night as we should. When you’re tired and you get behind the wheel of a car, you are putting yourself and others in danger. In a recent survey, about 27 percent of American drivers admit to falling asleep at the wheel at some point in their life.

U.S. Drowsy and Sleeping Driver Statistics
FrequencyPercentage
Within the Past Month2.7%
Within the Past Year3.5%
At Least Once in My Life21.1%
Never Fallen Asleep at the Wheel42.6%
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According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, every year about 100,000 police-reported crashes involve drowsy driving. The National Safety Council reports that about half of all U.S. drivers report getting behind the wheel drowsy.

The data below highlights a survey done by the Center for Disease Control about drivers who reported drowsy driving in specific states.

Drivers Who Reported Drowsy Driving by State
StatePercentage of Drivers Who Reported Drowsy Driving
Arkansas3.90%
California4.80%
Connecticut3%
Delaware2.80%
District of Columbia2.60%
Georgia4.10%
Hawaii5.70%
Illinois2.90%
Kansas2.90%
Louisiana3.80%
Maryland4.40%
Michigan3.50%
Minnesota3.10%
Missouri3.30%
Nebraska2.90%
Nevada3%
New York3.6
Oregon2.50%
Texas6.10%
Wyoming3.90%
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Falling asleep at the wheel of a car is probably going to lead to an accident. A head-on collision, going through a red light at a busy intersection, or veering off the road and hitting a tree or a pedestrian are all potential scenarios.

Is it better to be asleep in a car crash? If you are asleep during an accident, you may have better odds of survival because you don’t tense up. The objects or people that might hit, though, may not fare as well. Should you fall asleep at the wheel, you may have to deal with some serious consequences.

Drowsy Driving Laws in America

Currently, only Arkansas and New Jersey have laws that define drowsy driving as a punishable offense. Other states such as California, Connecticut, Florida, Iowa, and Maine have adopted driver’s license restrictions for motorists with untreated sleep disorders. Having an untreated sleeping disorder in one of these states could lead to sanctions on when and how you are allowed to drive.

Can you lose your license for falling asleep at the wheel?

Unless it is a habitual occurrence, most situations will not result in license revocation. While only a few states have adopted official rules and regulations for drowsy driving, most state DMV offices recognize drowsy driving as a significant risk to safe roads.

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Driving Drowsy and Insurance

Unless you live in one of the states mentioned above, there is no technical violation for falling asleep at the wheel.

Can you go to jail for falling asleep at the wheel? If you do fall asleep as the wheel and hit something or someone, the police will likely issue you a ticket. What violation you are cited for is up to the officer at the scene. Usually, you will just get a ticket.

Can you get a DUI for falling asleep at the wheel? If alcohol or drugs caused you to fall asleep, you could get a DUI/DWI citation. If that is not the case, in most instances, you will more than likely be given a ticket for “reckless driving” since you were not in control of your vehicle at all times. Reckless driving is when you were not giving your full attention to driving.

A ticket for reckless driving can impact your insurance by causing your rates to increase. Take a look at the data below that demonstrates examples of insurance rates when you have a ticket for reckless driving.

Average Increase In Auto Insurance Based on Driving Violation
Driving ViolationAverage Annual Rate Increase
Seatbelt Violation$47
Failure to Yield$281
Speeding 10+ MPH Over the Limit$317
Reckless Driving$1036
DUI/DWI$1331
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Among the common infractions, reckless driving can trigger one of the highest rate increases.

Liability Claims and Approved Settlements for Falling Asleep at the Wheel

Liability coverage is vast, but there are limitations. Answering whether or not an auto insurance policy will cover losses due to falling asleep at the wheel is not something that can be stated with complete certainty. An investigation is standard practice after an accident, and the insurance company may or may not approve the claim.

If a police officer at the scene documents that your sleepiness did cause an accident that you were involved in, it is possible that your car insurance will not pay your claim. But, more than likely, if you are in good standing, they will still pay it.

This determination will be made at the time of the claim by the adjuster and the insurance company. As long as you are forthcoming and honest and it is likely that your claim will be approved.

In general, falling asleep at the wheel would be something covered under a standard liability policy. Anyone whose claim is denied due to bad faith may be able to file suit against the insurance company. If no violations of the policy occurred, the chances of payment increase.

Liability coverage does provide protection against a tremendous range of scenarios in which the insured driver is at-fault for an accident. Here are some liability auto insurance coverage facts and myths.

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Avoiding Drowsy Driving and Accidents

Would it not be better to avoid falling asleep at the wheel rather than dozing off and getting into a serious accident?

Anyone who feels they are too tired to drive should understand being too tired creates an unsafe situation. Calling a cab or a ride-sharing service may be a better plan. Some studies indicate that drowsy driving could be just as unsafe as drunk driving.

Take a look at the following video that reveals the comparisons between drowsy driving and drunk driving.

Driving for too long on the roads without rest is risky. Taking stimulants capable of causing a crash or using any prescription or OTC medicine noting it can “cause drowsiness” before driving are all unwise. The risks of falling asleep and crashing increase. Those who are driving and feel themselves dozing off really should pull off the road. Driving in any impaired situation is hazardous to be sure.

Medical Conditions, Disclosure, and Insurance Policies

Things become a bit complicated when suffering from a medical condition capable of causing drowsiness and falling asleep at the wheel. Disclosing such information to an insurance company and responding to fundamental questions about treatment could be helpful.

Narcolepsy and car insurance is a common concern. A more accurate risk assessment can be performed by the insurance underwriter and an appropriate policy charge affixed. Full disclosure may eliminate problems if the time comes when a settlement is needed.

Disclosing risks before a claim being filed on the policy has benefits. If the insurer states the policy would not have been approved if the risk was known, this could be the basis for not honoring the policy.

If the person seeking an auto policy is required to shop elsewhere or purchase a higher-risk policy, so be it. You may have to do research to find out what are the best high-risk car insurance companies. The key here is the policy must be ironclad and not one capable of being deemed null and void.

Take this as another reason to perform serious comparison shopping. While one insurance company may choose to turn an applicant down or approve the application at a high cost, another company may be willing to issue a policy at a reasonable price.

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Collision vs. Liability Car Insurance

So far, the discussion about auto insurance has focused solely on liability. Liability refers to any damage caused if a driver fell asleep at the wheel and caused damage to another person or physical property belonging to others. Someone who falls asleep at the wheel and damages their vehicle cannot file a liability insurance claim.

The claim would need to be filed under collision coverage.

With collision coverage, the insurer would pay for damages inflicted upon the insured’s vehicle less the deductible amount.

If you only purchased the state minimum liability coverage, you would not be covered if you fell asleep at the wheel and only damaged your car. This is why it is important to weigh your insurance options and consider all levels of coverage.

In some situations, accidents happen. You just did not sleep well. You worked long hours. You just doze off. If you fell asleep behind the wheel, you should be covered under a car insurance policy. Once again, taking precautions to avoid falling asleep at the wheel is the best strategy.

The key is to be sure you have the right amount of auto insurance in place. And, let your agent know about any risk factors that apply to you. This can help ensure your car insurance remains in place even if you do have an incident like this.

If you are looking for better insurance if you fell asleep at the wheel or had another accident, use our free tool below. You can compare rates and plans from multiple companies.