In my last blog, I covered drowsy driving – how dangerous it can be even if you don’t fall asleep at the wheel. To drive home that point I want to spend a little time showing exactly how similar drunk driving and drowsy driving are. It can be hard for law enforcement to detect drowsy driving as the cause of a crash unless a driver self-reports sleepiness, so exact figures can be hard to come by. But even conservative estimates situate drowsy driving as a serious risk for drivers, causing thousands of deaths each year.
Drowsy Driving vs. Drunk Driving
There is no breathalyzer for sleepiness, though the amount of impairment from sleepiness can be just as pervasive as alcohol intoxication. Again according to the CDC, cognitive impairment after 18 hours awake equates to about a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.05 percent – not illegal, but potentially dangerous. After 24 hours awake, impairment from sleep deprivation is the same as a BAC of 0.10 percent – and that’s above the legal limit in all 50 states.
Drowsy Driving and Drinking DON’T MIX
To make matters worse, if you’re sleepy and have a drink before you drive, the booze can amplify the effects of inadequate sleep. So even if your BAC is below the legal limit, you may be as impaired as if your BAC were much higher. You may get off the hook legally, but if you hurt or kill someone else due to a mix of sleepy and drunk driving, that’s not going to matter much.
Have you ever driven when you knew you were too sleepy? Why? What happened?