New study: Drowsy driving more dangerous than previously thought

New study: Drowsy driving more dangerous than previously thought

We often hear about the dangers of getting behind the wheel after drinking, or taking medication that could impair your driving ability.

But, do you ever consider how awake you are before you drive?

New research from AAA has found that drowsy drivers are a bigger road risk than previously thought.

According to the report:

Results indicated that observable driver drowsiness, assessed on the basis of eyelid closures, was present in an estimated 8.8%-9.5% of all crashes and 10.6%-10.8% of those severe enough to be
reportable to the police.

The results of this study stand in stark contrast to official statistics published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which report that driver drowsiness was involved in an estimated 1.4% of all policereported crashes nationwide, 2.0% of crashes that resulted in injuries and 2.4% of crashes that resulted in a death in years 2011-2015 (National Center for Statistics & Analysis, 2017).

Driving tired could be just as bad as driving drunk.

“[It’s very] similar to alcohol intoxication. Your reflexes and responses and data processing speed will be slower,” said Dr. Gholam Motamedi of Georgetown University Hospital.

So similar, in fact, studies have compared how different levels of lack of sleep equates to different levels of intoxication.

CNN reports that after 17 to 19 hours without sleep, you’ll be functioning as if your blood alcohol concentration is 0.05. Go a full 20 to 25 hours without sleep, and you’ll soon be at 0.1–well over the US legal driving limit of 0.08.

And while the study did find a higher percentage of drowsy driving crashes happen in the dark, it’s not just at night that you might share the road with tired drivers. You never know how long drivers around you have been awake, or what sleep disorders they might have.

So when you’re behind the wheel, make sure you recognize the signs of drowsy driving. Including:

Yawning or blinking frequently.
Missing your exit.
Drifting from your lane.

Bottom line, if you think you are too tired to drive, you probably are.

If you feel drowsy, either pull over, or better yet, don’t get behind the wheel at all.