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man falling asleep at steering wheel

Drowsy Driving Is Dangerous Driving

Drunk driving receives a lot of attention, and for good reason. Not only is driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol deadly, but many drivers continue to do it without regard. Unfortunately, the same can be said for drowsy driving. In fact, it is possible that drowsy driving and drunk driving have more in common than you think.

Sleep Deprivation & Drunk Driving

One study suggests that staying awake for 24 hours straight is on par with having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 percent. If your BAC is .08 percent, you are considered legally drunk.

It is difficult to determine exactly how many deaths have resulted from drowsy driving. As many as 100,000 car crashes are potentially linked to driving while sleepy.

State Laws & Drowsy Driving

The first laws against driving while tired were passed in New Jersey in 2003. Known as Maggie's Law, this law allows the court to charge a driver with vehicular homicide if they kill somebody following lack of sleep within 24 hours of the accident.

The trouble with laws like these is that they are difficult for officers to enforce. If the driver does not admit to lack of sleep, it can be virtually impossible to prove that this is the case. This means that the law is rarely used.

The most recent case involving drowsy driving to hit the news occurred in 2014, when comedian Tracy Morgan was involved in an accident caused by an exhausted truck driver. The truck driver was indicted in vehicular homicide, as one passenger in the accident was killed.

Regardless of your state's laws, a police officer can pull you over for any maneuvers that appear to be unsafe. Because drowsy driving often appears similar to drunk driving, officers may also pull you over believing you are driving drunk.

Signs of Drowsy Driving

  • Difficulty focusing on the road
  • Heavy eyelids
  • Wandering eyes that don't focus ahead
  • Daydreaming
  • Difficulty remembering where you just drove
  • Repetitive yawning
  • Nodding off to sleep
  • Drifting out of your lane, especially hitting the rumble strip
  • Feeling grumpy

Tips to Prevent Drowsy Driving

There are plenty of ways to prevent driving while exhausted. Along with other tips for new drivers, keep this information in mind as you learn to drive:

  • Look for the signs of drowsy driving and pull over immediately if you begin to experience them. You can also look for these signs if you are a passenger.
  • Always assess how much sleep you received before driving. Anything less than six the night before a drive puts you at risk.
  • Avoid driving during those hours you are typically asleep, even if you got plenty of rest during the day.
  • Do not take medications that induce drowsiness before bed, including cold and flu medications. Ask your doctor before beginning a new prescription about the possible side effects on your driving.
  • Avoid any amount of alcohol before driving.
  • Driving a long distance? Try to travel with a companion. Road trips are much easier when you can switch off with somebody else.
  • Stop regularly. A good rule of thumb is to stop every 100 miles or so to stretch your legs, grab a cup of coffee, or have a light snack. Heavy meals may make you sleepy.
  • Drinking coffee or an energy drink on the road may help you for a short amount of time, but these items will not sustain you for a long drive. You are better to find a hotel for the night or take a nap.
  • If you do decide to pull off the road for a nap, make sure it is in a well-lit rest area.

Avoiding the road when you feel tired could save your life and the lives of others on the road.

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