Many Maryland drivers who would never operate a vehicle while drunk may get behind the wheel when they are drowsy. According to one survey, one in five people state that, in the past year, they have fallen asleep while driving. Half of the survey respondents say they drive despite being sleepy.
The dangers of drowsy driving
Driving while sleepy causes impairment that is similar to that caused by driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Fatigue affects your reaction time, your decision-making abilities and how alert you are. Being awake for 20 hours causes a similar level of impairment to a 0.08 BAC, the legal limit, and at longer periods of wakefulness, the effect is even stronger. However, even moderate sleep deprivation can have serious consequences. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, people who have slept between six and seven hours are twice as likely to be in an accident as those who have slept more than seven hours.
The costs of drowsy driving
It can be more difficult to assess how many car accidents drowsy driving is responsible for because, unlike drunk driving, there is no way to measure fatigue, and drivers may be reluctant to admit it. While the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that in 2017, there were 795 fatigue-related, fatalities, experts estimate that as many as 6,000 deaths each year are a result of driving while drowsy. There are economic costs as well, including the price of medical care and damage to property.
The demands of everyday life can make driving while drowsy seem unavoidable, but it is important to understand how dangerous this decision can be. Drivers who are fatigued should make an effort to find an alternative to getting behind the wheel to keep themselves, passengers, pedestrians and others using the road safer.