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Drowsy driving: a serious safety concern on the road

Roadway safety is an issue that concerns everybody who regularly drives a motor vehicle, and that is most of us. There are a great many risks involved in getting behind the wheel. Some of the major ones include drunken driving, distracted driving, and aggressive driving or road rage. Another area of safety concern that doesn't seem to get as much attention as it should is drowsy driving.

Most of us have been tired behind the wheel at one point or another, and most of us have little tricks we use to keep ourselves awake, including opening the windows, turning music on, drinking liquids, or even just pulling over and taking a short nap. Any such strategy that works is worthwhile, and is the responsible thing to do. Drowsy drivers who cause accidents are, after all, responsible for the harm they cause.

What is not responsible to do is to remain behind the wheel in a significant state of drowsiness or fatigue. Doing so puts a driver at significant risk of causing an accident. How much risk? According to the Governor's Highway Safety Administration, the degree of impairment from drowsiness can be compared to alcohol intoxication.

The nonprofit estimates that 18 hours without sleep is roughly equivalent to 0.05% blood alcohol concentration, 21 hours without sleep is equivalent to 0.08% BAC, and 24 hours without sleep is equivalent to around 0.10% BAC. Even if these numbers are just an estimate, the important point they convey is that drowsiness is a serious impairment behind the wheel

Although all drivers are at risk of drowsy driving, commercial vehicle drivers are particularly at risk given the long hours and irregular schedules they work, as well as the pressure from the industry to increase productivity. In our next post, we'll continue to look at this issue, and particularly how federal regulations have sought to address the issue.