Drowsy-driving accidents killed 7,392 people between 2010 and 2018. Texas, by far, saw the largest number of drowsy-driving deaths — 1,734, with 1,310 of these occurring on the state's highways and interstates.
The number of people killed nationally in these accidents has fallen by 8% since 2010, despite increases in 2012 and 2014. The same can be said for the number of fatal drowsy-driving crashes, which fell by 9% between 2010 and 2018, despite year-over-year increases in three of those years.
Going further, more 25- to 34-year-olds died in drowsy-driving accidents than any other age group. These deaths underscore the lethalness of drowsy driving: Though drowsy driving kills fewer people per year than drunk driving, more people die per accident.
- Drivers on Texas’ interstates and highways were the most likely to be involved in fatal drowsy-driving accidents from 2010 to 2018. Texas accounted for 22% of fatal crashes on major roadways throughout the U.S. during this time — almost four times greater than the next state (California).
- Drowsy-driving accidents have claimed lives in every state (Rhode Island is at the bottom of the list), with more of these crashes occurring on state highways than interstates and U.S. highways.
- While California accounted for only 6% of fatal drowsy-driving accidents, the most fatal accidents of this kind from 2010 to 2018 across the U.S. occurred in San Bernardino County.
- People ages 25 to 34 were the most likely to die in drowsy-driving accidents from 2010 to 2018, accounting for 16% of victims.
On Texas' busiest roads, there were 10 times more fatal crashes than the national average
From 2010 to 2018, there were more fatal drowsy-driving crashes on Texas' interstates and highways than in any other state. During this time, there were 1,111 fatal crashes stemming from drowsy driving. Nationally, there were 5,133 fatal crashes on highways and interstates, with about 103 crashes per state.
As such, fatal crashes in Texas made up 22% of the entire country’s drowsy-driving crashes. Moreover, these crashes on major Texas roadways occurred at a rate that was more than 10 times greater than it was across the country. In fact, the state with the second-most fatal drowsy-driving crashes on highways and interstates, California, only had a 6% share of the country's total fatal accidents.
Texas was the only state that possessed a share greater than 10% of the total drowsy-driving incidents. In fact, Texas, California and Alabama were the only states that had at least a 5% share.
Number of drowsy-driving fatal crashes
Percentage of total
Table is ordered by the number of drowsy-driving crashes on highways and interstates.
Every state had at least one death that was attributed to drowsy driving on highways and interstates. Rhode Island's eight total drowsy-driving deaths made it the state with the fewest fatalities on major roadways. On average across all states, there were 117 deaths from drowsy driving from 2010 to 2018.
A single drowsy-driving crash was likely to kill more than one person. In fact, about 112 people were killed for every 100 fatal crashes from 2010 to 2018. Compared to the number of fatalities for drunk driving, drowsy driving has a slightly higher death rate, though the gross number of deaths was much lower. For every 100 fatal crashes that were attributable to drunk driving from 2010 to 2018, there were about 109 deaths.
Fifty-eight percent of all counties in the U.S. had at least one fatal drowsy-driving accident on major roadways from 2010 to 2018
Across all 3,141 counties in the U.S., there was at least one fatal drowsy-driving crash in 1,833 of them from 2010 to 2018. Despite the prevalence of fatal crashes due to drowsy driving in Texas, the county with the most incidents during this time was San Bernardino in California.
From 2010 to 2018, there were 52 fatal crashes caused by drowsy driving on San Bernardino's highways and interstates. Still, the distribution of crashes across so many counties means that accidents in San Bernardino only made up 1% of the total fatal accidents.
Moreover, one in every eight counties where a fatal drowsy-driving accident happened during this period was in Texas. After breaking the data into four quartiles, we found that counties from Texas made up 24% of the list of counties with the highest numbers of drowsy-driving crashes on busy roads.
On the other hand, there were 724 counties that had just one fatal crash from 2010 to 2018 due to drowsy driving. This means that there was just a single fatal crash in 39% of the counties where at least one crash occurred.
State and county
Total fatal drowsy-driving crashes
|California - San Bernardino||52|
|California - Riverside||27|
|Texas - Dallas||22|
|California - Los Angeles||21|
|Arizona - Coconino||20|
|Arizona - Maricopa||20|
|Texas - Bexar||20|
|Maryland - Prince George's||18|
|Texas - Bastrop||18|
|Texas - Atascosa||17|
|Texas - Live Oak||17|
|Alabama - Jefferson||16|
This table shows the 25 counties that had the most fatal drowsy-driving crashes from 2010 to 2018 on highways and interstates
Every state saw deaths from drowsy driving, with most crashes happening during the day
Drowsy driving has claimed lives in every state, with most of these crashes happening on state highways rather than interstates and U.S. highways. From a broader look, accidents on these three types of roadways make up 78% of all drowsy-driving fatal crashes. ValuePenguin also found that those most likely to die in drowsy driving crashes were 25- to 34-year-old drivers, no matter where they occurred.
The number of fatalities in this age group was 1,178 from 2010 to 2018 on all roads — 16% of the total number of drowsy-driving deaths. However, the number of deaths was fairly even across 15- to 64-year-olds. On the other hand, the oldest and youngest people on the road were the least likely to be killed: People younger than 15 made up 5% of the national deaths, while those 75 and older made up 9%.
Contrary to what most might expect, it's most common for drowsy driving to cause fatal crashes during the daytime. Fifty-one percent of these types of crashes happened in daylight. Conversely, 43% happened in the dark. Dawn and dusk only accounted for 5% and 1%, respectively, of the total number of drowsy-driving crashes from 2010 to 2018.
Does car insurance cover drowsy driving?
For drivers who don't live in no-fault states, the extent to which they're protected from drowsy-driving damage could depend on whether they were the ones who fell asleep at the wheel.
As drowsy driving isn't an isolated incident but rather a national problem, it's important to understand how a typical car insurance policy would treat the damage from these accidents. Whether you were the violating driver or the affected driver would determine your insurer's liability.
If you were the victim of someone who crashed into you while driving while drowsy, the other driver's bodily liability insurance would pay for the damage to your vehicle and the medical bills you face, up to the limit of their policy.
However, if you were the one who hit another person's car while falling asleep, it's less certain that your car insurance would pay to repair the damage you caused to your own car. Bodily injury liability insurance only provides coverage for another person. In this scenario, you'd have to have collision coverage, which pays for repair damages, regardless of your fault.
ValuePenguin analyzed crash data from FARS, which is operated by the National Highway Transit Safety Administration. The FARS data we collected dealt specifically with drowsy-driving accidents and deaths. We organized the data by county and state to find totals for state highways, U.S. highways and national interstates.