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The disturbing similarities between drunk and drowsy driving

Posted in Blog on October 1, 2018

When you think of drunk and drowsy driving, which initially comes to mind as being worse, or more dangerous? If you think one is more dangerous than the other, you may want to guess again.

If you’ve ever experienced driving while tired, then you know what it’s like: you’re nodding off, your eyelids are heavy, you yawn, your eyes may feel heavy or may water, it’s hard to focus on anything, including the road. New research suggests that because of the body’s response to exhaustion, driving drowsy is just as dangerous as driving drunk.

In 2016, it was estimated by AAA that drowsy driving accounted for nearly twenty percent of all car accidents resulting in fatalities. Lacking in two or even just one of the seven that doctors recommend can double a driver’s crash risk, and missing three or four hours increases the crash likelihood by 400 percent. According to these numbers, AAA’s Foundation for Traffic Safety says that getting five or fewer hours of sleep and then driving on the road is the same thing as driving drunk with a blood-alcohol level above the legal limit, with a similar resulting likelihood of crashes. Another study released by UCLA found that having just one drink combined with getting less than five hours of sleep is equivalent to a well-rested person who has had six drinks. But outside of these numbers, why is drowsy driving just as dangerous as driving drunk?

Drowsy driving increases your mind’s ability to get distracted, with slower reaction times to stimuli and more reckless decision-making, which are all the same symptoms of drunkenness. Symptoms of drowsiness, such as yawning, teary and heavy eyes that are difficult to keep open, often occur in drowsy driving, but many drowsy drivers who have crashed have also claimed that they experienced no symptoms of drowsiness before the crash happened. Since it can be difficult to discern the truth of these reports from pure embarrassment by the drivers, drowsy driving can be difficult to determine as the cause of a crash and is therefore often underreported.

Drowsy driving is most common amongst people working night shifts or multiple jobs, students, truck drivers, on-call professionals (such as doctors), travelers, pilots, and parents of young children. Those who are on certain types of medication also experience drowsiness when driving. Though the majority of people consider drowsy driving unsafe, most of those people also are often the perpetrators, because most people aren’t even aware of when they’re tired, since most people are sleep-deprived on a daily basis.

So what can you do to keep the roads safe? If you wouldn’t get behind a wheel drunk, then consider being tired and driving just as dangerous. If you get tired while you’re driving, pull over to the side of the road for a while every two hours. Since one of the few differences between drunk and drowsy driving is that it’s more difficult to determine drowsy driving as the cause of an accident, be sure to team up with a lawyer who is experienced in fatigued driving cases if you or a loved one has gotten into an accident related to drowsy driving. And remember: being exhausted and driving can result in the same tragedies as drunk driving, so be sure to be well-rested before getting in your car and hitting the road. Learn more at: www.zanerhardenlaw.com.

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