Is Driving Tired Really Like Driving Drunk?

We all know the inherent dangers of drinking and driving, but what about driving when drowsy? Can being sleepy behind the wheel really be as dangerous as operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs of alcohol? Here’s what you need to know about the dangers of drowsy driving and how you can protect yourself on area roadways.

The Dangers of Drowsy Driving

Have you ever gotten behind the wheel while feeling sleepy? If so, you’re not alone. Almost two-thirds of adults in the United States admit to driving drowsy and a whopping one-third admits to falling asleep behind the wheel, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Since driving while drowsy is not illegal, it might not seem like a big deal, but sleep experts say drowsy driving can have serious consequences. It can increase your likelihood of being in a car accident, injuring yourself or another person. The effects it has on your body can be like drunk driving, which makes it even more serious.

Sleep experts state that drowsy driving can have similar effects to driving under the influence because it impairs your judgment, slows your reaction time, and interferes with your ability to think clearly. Being awake for 18 hours straight is similar to driving with a BAC of .05, according to National Sleep Foundation. This means you are technically under the legal limit, but still impaired enough to make it more difficult for you to track objects and take evasive maneuvers to avoid a crash.

If you’ve been awake for a full 24 hours, it’s like driving with a BAC of .10. This is well over the legal limit and can have a marked effect on your ability to follow traffic signals, stay within your lane, and react accordingly to hazards in the road.

Driving drunk and driving drowsy have similar side effects – in particular, they both make it difficult to pay attention to the task of driving and impact your ability to make fast decisions when necessary. However, drowsy driving and drunk driving don’t always look the same. A drunk driver, for example, often drives slower to accommodate a slower reaction time. A drowsy driver, on the other hand, is still capable of nodding off while driving fast. This means drowsy-driving accidents can occur at high speeds, while drunk-driving accidents are more likely to occur at slower speeds. This also means drowsy drivers don’t always have time to react if they swerve into another lane.

Know the Signs of Drowsy Driving

Tampa motorists can protect themselves by following a few tips:

  • Never attempt to drive when drowsy or after a sleepless night. Take the day off work or cancel your plans for the day so you can get some rest.
  • Keep an eye out for telltale signs of drowsy driving. A driver might have trouble focusing, his or her eyelids might be heavy, he or she might yawn constantly, or you might notice drifting from a lane. If you notice this behavior, give the person a wide berth and allow them to pass.
  • If you notice any of these symptoms in yourself, pull over to the side of the road and take a quick catnap, or buy yourself a cup of coffee to stay alert for the rest of the drive home.

Finally, don’t try to “push through” on long road trips. Split driving duties between anyone able to drive in the vehicle and take breaks instead of driving through the night. This way, you’ll arrive at your destination refreshed and ready to take in all area has to offer. By following simple tips such as these, you can greatly reduce your likelihood of being involved in a drowsy driving accident.