Driving Tired Just as Dangerous as Driving Drunk

A new study shows driving home after pulling an all-nighter at the library can be as dangerous as driving after a night of drinking.

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Photo: Regan McCarthy

A study shows driving tired is just as dangerous as driving drunk.

A new study shows driving home after pulling an all-nighter at the library can be as dangerous as driving after a night of drinking. A survey conducted by the National Sleep Foundation shows that being awake for more than 20 hours results in an impairment equal to a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08-percent, the legal limit in all states. AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety Spokesman Dan Bleier says the dangers of drowsy driving are underestimated and people tend to over estimate their abilities to deal with sleepiness.

“They say, ‘Oh I can go another hour and keep myself awake, turn on the radio or turn on the cold air real high, that will keep me awake’,” he says. “They overestimate their ability to drive when their tired; you never quite know when that wall of sleepiness could hit you and you could just fall asleep.”

But Bloomington Police Department Lieutenant Craig Munroe says it’s far more common to see drunk drivers than dozing ones. Munroe says in the past two years, the city has seen three accidents resulting from a tired driver. Munroe says the effects of drowsy driving may be similar to the effects of drunk driving but impairments due to sleepiness are not seen as often.

“They are similar and both very serious issues on the road,” he says, “but we advise everyone to get the proper rest before a long trip. It may take a little longer but it’s the safest option to get to where you’re going.”

In a 2010 nationwide survey of US drivers, more than one in four admitted to having driven when they were “so sleepy that they had a hard time keeping their eyes open” within the past month. Bleier says nearly 17% of a sample of 50,000 fatal crashes between 1999 and 2008 involved a drowsy driver.

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