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Driving Tired is Like Driving Drunk

Posted: Nov 09, 2010 11:09 a.m.

According to a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 41 percent of drivers admit that they’ve fallen asleep behind the wheel. That’s two in five people. What make these statistics even scarier is that these numbers are higher than expected, and that 16 to 24 year olds are “nearly twice as likely to be involved in a drowsy driving crash as drivers age 40-59.”

Driving tired is like driving drunk. “Just like alcohol or drugs, sleepiness slows reaction time and impairs judgment, according to AAA Foundation president and CEO Peter Kissinger,” Edmunds elaborates. “And drowsy driving can be just as dangerous as driving under the influence.”

Most drivers don’t equate driving tired and driving under the influence because driving tired isn’t illegal. “Many of us tend to underestimate the negative effects associated with fatigue and sleep deprivation and, conversely, overestimate our abilities to overcome them while driving,” vice president of AAA Public Affairs Kathleen Marvaso states in a press release. “This data underscores the importance of educating drivers on the simple, yet effective steps they can take to prevent a possible tragedy. Unfortunately, too many drivers have adopted the 'I'm tired, but I can make it’ mentality, often to their own peril or to the peril of others.”

The New York Times explains that sleep-related crashes are more dangerous. “Thomas J. Balkin, a sleep researcher and chairman of the National Sleep Foundation, said sleep-related crashes were likely to be severe. People ‘tend to have worse crashes because they didn’t do anything to mitigate the crash,’ like hitting the brakes or steering away from a collision.”

Avoid driving tired. Bloomberg suggests, “Drivers should get at least six hours of sleep before a long trip, schedule a break every two hours and travel at times when they are normally awake... Drifting from a lane and tailgating may be signs of drowsiness.”

Another way is to just get more sleep in general. The New York Times says people get a lot less sleep than they did 30 or 40 years ago, “when the average amount of sleep was about eight hours a night.” Now people average seven hours a night.

Caffeine is another solution. The Los Angeles Times summarizes AAA’s advice: “If a driver drinks coffee or other caffeinated beverages to help stay alert, he or she should do so about 30 minutes before driving to give the caffeine time to enter the bloodstream and take effect.”

Driving is America’s primary mode of transportation, but when you drive tired, you’re putting yourself, your passengers and other drivers at risk. If you’re tired, just don’t drive. It could save your -- or someone else’s -- life.

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