November 17, 2016
Between 2009 and 2013, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that around 72,000 accidents were caused by drowsy driving. Those accidents, which resulted in 800 deaths and many injuries, could likely have been avoided if only the drivers were better rested and more alert. Unfortunately, though, due to stressful schedules, shift work, and a myriad of other situations, Americans often hit the road when they’re too tired, and some of them are dying over it.
Drowsy driving is often hard to combat because it isn’t seen as being as important an issue as drunk or distracted driving. But various studies have now indicated that drowsy driving can be more dangerous than even drunk driving. One study out of New Zealand stated that drivers who didn’t sleep for 17 straight hours performed worse on certain driving tests than drivers whose blood alcohol content was 0.05%. If the driver has been awake for 21 hours, his or her performance is as bad as a drunk driver’s (that is, equivalent to driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.08%). When you drive while tired, you’re more likely to have a poorer reaction time, impaired vision, and difficulty processing information. All of these things are critical while you’re operating a vehicle if you want to keep you and those around you safe.
Because it’s often hard, when looking at the evidence in a crash, to guarantee whether the driver had the accident due to being fatigued, there are likely more incidents of drowsy driving crashes that aren’t counted in the NHTSA’s total. The number is definitely significant enough that driving while tired should be a point of discussion alongside drunk or distracted driving. As Pam Fischer, a former highway safety official in New Jersey who wrote a report on the subject, says, “Drowsy driving is more pervasive than we recognize, more commonplace, and we’re all guilty of it. And we have the ability to correct it. The fix is simple: Get more sleep.”