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Driving Drowsy is as Bad as Driving Drunk

Whether you’re regularly pressed for sleep, or you’re preparing for a long-haul drive for the holidays or any other occasion, you should know even an hour or two of missed sleep can put you at greater risk for an accident on the road.

Getting behind the wheel of a car after only four or five hours of sleep increases the risk of being involved in an auto accident as much as driving drunk according to a research by AAA. Drowsy driving is estimated to be a factor in twenty percent of fatal crashes.

AAA said drivers who had less than four hours of sleep in the last 24 hours had a crash rate that was 11.5 times greater than those who had slept for seven hours or more. Drivers who received four to five hours of sleep within the past 24 hours had an accident rate of 4.3 times greater than those that had enough sleep. “This rate is similar or worse than the crash rate for drivers with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or higher.”

The accident rate for drivers who slept six to seven hours in the past 24 hours was only 1.3 times greater than those who got the full seven hours of sleep.

It’s with anything in life – being tired can cause people to make decisions they normally wouldn’t. Tired drivers are more likely to be distracted, to react slower, and prone to dangerous decisions than well-rested drivers.

A few signs of fatigue include frequent yawning, an inability to keep your eyes open, and drifting into the opposite lane or shoulder of the road. If you catch yourself nodding off, keeping too short of a following distance, or driving past your turn, it’s time to take a break.

Unfortunately, many people don’t recognize when they’re drowsy. According to the UCLA Sleep Disorders Center:

People who are drowsy often don’t even realize it. This makes being drowsy that much more dangerous. The effects of being drowsy are very much like the effects of drinking alcohol. This is because it is hard to know for sure when someone is too tired to drive. Drowsy driving is much more difficult to identify than drunk driving.

How can you combat the risks of running on a sleep deficit?

AAA recommends taking a break every two hours or 100 miles, traveling with a passenger who can keep you awake, sharing driving responsibilities, and avoiding medications that cause drowsiness. If all else fails and you find yourself dozing at the wheel, pull off the road immediately, and take a nap.