You probably already know just how serious drunk driving or distracted driving can be; however, drowsy driving happens just as frequently (if not more) and can be equally as dangerous.
Drowsiness after an all-nighter or several nights of little sleep isn’t just an uncomfortable sensation; it can be the recipe for a serious accident if you get behind the wheel. Sleep-deprived drivers are those drivers whose critical cognitive or physical abilities are inhibited due to a lack of sleep. Sleep deprivation, even mild cases, makes drivers less attentive, delays their reaction time, and impacts their ability to make smart decisions.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 697 people died on U.S. roads in 2019 because of “drowsy drivers” either falling asleep at the wheel or unsafely operating their vehicle. But that’s not all: NHTSA estimates that in 2017, 91,000 police-reported crashes involved drowsy drivers. These accidents led to an estimated 50,000 people being injured. However, most traffic safety and sleep science experts agree that these numbers are likely an underestimate of the true impact of drowsy driving.
The scary fact is that sleep deprivation can be just as dangerous as drunkenness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cites studies that show that going too long without sleep can impair your driving ability in the same way as alcohol.
- Staying awake for at least 18 hours is the same as someone having a blood content (BAC) of 0.05%.
- Staying awake for at least 24 hours is equal to having a blood alcohol content of 0.10%. This is higher than the legal limit (0.08% BAC) in all states.
Pair drowsiness with alcohol consumption, and the effects become even more pronounced.