We know the dangers of intoxicated and distracted drivers on the road. However, not as much attention is given to what may happen when someone who is sleep-deprived gets behind the wheel.
This blog post will explain how the lack of sleep can put other motorists in danger.
The impact of sleep deprivation
In 2017, there were approximately 50,000 injuries and almost 800 deaths caused by drowsy driving. While not quite at the level of alcohol-related fatalities, they still represent a significant number of accidents that could have been avoided.
Acute fatigue has a similar physical response to intoxication, such as slowed reaction time, impaired decision-making and nodding off at the wheel. Studies have shown that going without sleep for 20 hours has the same impact as a blood alcohol concentration of 0.8%, the legal limit for many states.
Some people are at higher risk for drowsy driving, such as shift workers, commercial truck divers, people with sleep disorders and young drivers.
Prioritizing sleep before getting behind the wheel, and aiming for seven to nine hours is imperative. Plan regular breaks and switch drivers if possible if you are setting out on a long road trip.
It’s also important to recognize the signs of drowsy driving, such as:
- Frequent yawning
- Heavy eyelids
- Drifting from your lane
If you notice any of these happening, pull over to rest as soon as possible. People who drive while sleepy typically experience “microsleeps” when they nod off for a few seconds. While a few seconds may not seem like a big deal, at highway speeds, they can travel a couple of hundred yards during that time.
If you are traveling and notice a driver in another car acting drowsy, go to a safe spot and call 911. You, and everyone else on the road, will be safer.