The Washington Post recently published a story that tired drivers are just as dangerous as drunk drivers. This appears to look quite accurate—and scary—when you look at the statistics of drowsy driving. In a 2014 study by AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 21% of all fatal crashes involved a drowsy driver. (Click here to see Study). Almost a quarter of all fatal accidents! And, the chance of a car accident by a sleep deprived person increases exponentially in an inverse proportion to the amount of sleep the night before. For example, a person with less than four (4) hours of sleep has an 11.5 crash rate of a person that has slept for seven (7) hours. (2016 study by AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety).
What about the people that only sleep 4-5 hours a night regularly? This may be their normal routine, but statistics show that they also have an increased probability to crash. In fact, a person that sleeps 4-5 hours a night on a regular basis still has a 5.4 crash rate compared to a person that sleeps 7 hours a night. (2016 study by AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety). The 2016 AAA study finds that, when compared to the U.S. government’s data, driving on 4-5 hours sleep is the equivalent to driving at the legal limit of blood alcohol. And, when you go below 4 hours of sleep, that blood alcohol equivalent increases dramatically. In other words, drowsy driving is a lot like drunk driving. (2016 study by AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety).
If you have ever driven while drowsy or tired, you know how dangerous this could be. Often times, your vision is not the best and your reflexes are slowed as well. Decision-making and reaction time—both mentally and physically—decreases to that of someone that is intoxicated. (1999 Stanford Study)
It is interesting because everyone knows the hazards of drinking and driving. In fact, most people would have at least one friend or loved one that would stop them if they attempted to drive drunk. But, what would your friends do if you were tired? Most likely… nothing. I can tell you personally I have been with friends and family where I was tired and uncontrollably yawning. And, guess what? When it was time to leave, no one stopped me from driving away. It is interesting that each is similarly dangerous, but people just do not realize or acknowledge it. Why is that? Especially, when you think about it, most likely more people have driven drowsy than intoxicated. Maybe it’s the, “it wont happen to me” mentality.
Now, imagine this drowsy driver gets behind a 20,000 to 80,000 lbs. vehicle. Car accidents with a 2,500 lbs. vehicle are catastrophic enough, but when you have the weight of a tractor-trailer, the results are deadly. There are U.S. regulations that prohibit excessive driving and that require rest, but unfortunately, corners are cut to maximize profits. Truckers need to think about the devastation they can cause due to driving while drowsy. Actually, all people do!
I write this blog in hopes that it is an awareness issue, and I can do my part to make people aware that drowsy driving can be as dangerous as drunk driving. I am just asking you to be aware that drowsy driving is dangerous, and please think twice before getting behind the wheel without a full night’s sleep.