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How dangerous is driving drowsy?

On Behalf of | Sep 9, 2020 | Motor vehicle crashes

If you’ve ever gotten behind the wheel feeling sleepy and groggy, you’re in good company. Nearly half of adult drivers in the U.S. admit to regularly getting behind the wheel while drowsy, and over 40% of drivers admit to falling asleep behind the wheel at least once in their driving careers.

In a 24/7 society, it’s not unusual for people to not get enough sleep. However, while it may seem harmless, drowsy driving could be more dangerous than you think. A recent study from AAA shows that driving while fatigued can be just as dangerous as driving drunk.

Skimping on sleep increases your risk of an accident

Drowsy drivers are more likely to be distracted, have slower reaction times and more prone to poor decisions than well-rested drivers. According to the AAA study, drivers who slept only four to five hours had a similar crash rate to driving with a blood alcohol centration (BAC) of the legal limit or slightly above it.

What’s more, is even missing one to two hours of sleep the night before double’s your risk of getting into an accident. Missing two to three hours of sleep increases the risk of a collision by 400%. The less sleep you get, the more that risk increases.

How do you know if you’re too tired to drive?

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, the common signs and symptoms of drowsy driving include:

  • Frequent yawning
  • Difficulty keeping your eyes open
  • Missing road signs or turns
  • Drifting out of your lane
  • Difficulty maintaining your speed
  • Inability to recall driving the last few miles

How can you avoid drowsy driving?

If you’re feeling drowsy, you should avoid getting behind the wheel whenever possible. To ensure you are well-rested and alert the next time you drive, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends the following tips:

  • Get a good night’s sleep. Experts recommend getting seven to eight hours of sleep daily.
  • Be sure to get plenty of rest before a long road trip.
  • Avoid drinking and driving. Alcohol will increase drowsiness and impairment while driving.
  • Make sure the medications you take don’t have drowsiness as a side effect.
  • If you start to feel sleepy while driving, pull over to a safe location to rest or drink a caffeinated beverage until you feel awake and alert.

Remember, getting behind the wheel tired puts everyone on the road at risk. By getting a good night’s sleep, you can avoid potentially deadly accidents.