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Is driving drowsy as dangerous as driving drunk?

Many Knoxville residents can probably relate to having driven a vehicle after not getting a proper night's sleep. Maybe you drove to an exam after being up all night studying. You might not have even given it a second thought.

But perhaps you should. Research conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety indicates that sleepy drivers are involved in 20 percent of highway fatalities. In fact, according to AAA, losing just a couple of hours of shut-eye doubles motorists' risk of collisions. Lose more sleep than that and drowsy drivers increase their accident risk by 400 percent.

Why it's such a big deal

There is no foolproof way to determine whether a driver was asleep at the wheel during a collision. Unlike tests that measure motorists' blood alcohol content (BAC), there is no way to substantiate that a driver nodded off behind the wheel.

As stated by the media relations manager for AAA Northeast, "Not getting enough sleep is extremely dangerous for drivers. Our new research shows that getting less than five hours sleep is the same as driving drunk."

How sleepiness affect driving performance

When drivers are tired, they get easily distracted. Their reaction times get slower and they are more likely to make deadly driving decisions. This is a recipe for highway disaster.

Drivers who experience some of the following may be too drowsy to drive safely:

  • Eyes begin to close
  • Missing an exit
  • Yawning
  • Drifting to the shoulder
  • Crossing the center line

Those who work the second or graveyard shifts have an increased risk of driving drowsy when leaving work. Those who work long hours and stay up 15-18 hours at a stretch see much higher crash rates, says the chief executive and president of one nonprofit based in Illinois, the National Safety Council.

Did you get hurt in an accident caused by a drowsy driver? You may be able to pursue a claim for financial compensation.

Source: U.S. News & World Report, "Drowsy Driving: Worse Than Drunk Driving?," Jaclyn Trop, accessed June 01, 2018

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