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Is drowsy driving truly as dangerous as drunk driving?

Many people understand why drunk driving is prohibited and view that behavior as dangerous. Sleep deprivation causes some of the same impairments as alcohol consumption. Yet, many people who avoid driving drunk, continue to drive when drowsy.

Feeling tired may seem normal in a society that seems to be always busy. However, drowsy driving puts you, your passengers and others on the road at risk of severe injuries or death.

How are drowsy and drunk driving similar?

It can be difficult to confirm if drowsy driving and drunk driving are equally dangerous because it is not currently possible to determine the exact number of crashes caused by drowsy driving. However, drowsy driving and drunk driving are similar because being tired can have similar effects on the body as alcohol can have.

Sleep deprivation can:

  • Make it difficult to focus on the road
  • Reduce your ability to make quick decisions
  • Decrease your awareness of potential hazards

Being awake for 18 hours can make you drive as if you have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .05. Being awake for a full 24 hours can make you drive as if you have a BAC of .10, which would be over the .08 legal limit.

Drowsy driving crashes and drunk driving crashes have some differences as well. A drunk driver will often try to drive slowly and attempt to react. Drowsy drivers can fall asleep at the wheel. If that occurs, they may not attempt to stop or swerve.

How tired is too tired?

Everyone gets tired. You might work a long day at the office, travel a long distance on a road trip, stay up late finishing a movie or have your sleep disrupted by a sick child. There are many reasons why you might feel tired during the day. However, it can be helpful to recognize when you are too tired to drive safely.

You may be too tired to drive, if you:

  • Are having trouble focusing on driving
  • Notice your eyelids feel heavy
  • Cannot remember the last stretch of road
  • Begin yawning frequently
  • Catch yourself bobbing your head
  • Start drifting from your lane

If you are too tired to drive, consider asking someone else to drive. If no one else can drive, find a safe place to pull over. Try drinking a cup of coffee and taking a 20-minute nap as a temporary solution.

Despite common misconceptions, drowsy driving is a dangerous behavior that can put lives at risk. The best way to prevent being in a drowsy driving crash is to get plenty of sleep every night. However, you cannot control other drivers on the road. If you were injured in a crash caused by a drowsy driver, you may be able to receive compensation for your medical expenses and other costs associated with your injury.

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