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Driving Tired Can Be as Dangerous as Driving Drunk

Drunk driving is not tolerated in our society. Getting behind the wheel while impaired due to alcohol will get you a stiff fine, possible jail time, and a suspended license. What about driving while tired? Not just tired, but so tired you are having trouble keeping your eyes open? How many times have you told someone or heard someone say that they drove in this condition?

Well, maybe this should not be tolerated. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, a whopping 41 percent of Americans admit to having fallen asleep at the wheel. What is worse is that one out of every six deadly crashes involves a drowsy driver. Drunk drivers are involved in one out of every three deadly crashes. A spokesperson for AAA stated that drowsy driving results in decreased reaction time, impaired judgment, and decreased awareness, just like alcohol use. The deadly effects of driving when too tired seem to be overlooked.

Only one state presently penalizes sleep-deprived drivers. New Jersey allows a homicide prosecution for anyone who causes death while driving a vehicle when they have been awake for more than 24 hours. New York, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Oregon, Kentucky, and Illinois may follow suit shortly.

To avoid driving while sleep-deprived, AAA recommends the following:

  • Get at least six hours of sleep before driving long distances.
  • Schedule a break every two hours or 100 miles.
  • Travel during times you are normally awake.
  • Stay somewhere overnight instead of driving straight through.
  • Stop driving if you become sleepy; someone who is tired can fall asleep at any time. If you become sleepy, pull over and take a nap.

Even more important, know these signs of sleepiness:

  • Having trouble keeping your eyes opened and focused
  • Not being able to keep your head up
  • Daydreaming or having wandering, disconnected thoughts
  • Drifting in and out of your lane or off the road
  • Tailgating

Many of us would not consider getting behind the wheel of a car when impaired by alcohol. Maybe we should start applying this exercise of common sense when we are tired as well.

For more information on driving and sleep deprivation, also read an article on the subject from US News & World Report.