(WHTM) — When you get behind the wheel of a car and begin to drive, sometimes you can feel really relaxed, to the point of closing your eyes. This is especially true if you did not sleep well the night before.
Driving without sleep is dangerous, but does it compare to driving drunk?
According to reports from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drowsy driving was responsible for 91,000 car crashes, 50,000 injuries, and 795 fatalities back in 2017.
Sleepfoundation.org says that while not totally the same, drowsy driving and drunk driving have many similarities. After being awake for 18 hours, reaction time, multi-tasking and hand-eye coordination are comparable to someone who has a blood alcohol content of .05% This increases to .08% after being awake for 20 hours.
.08% is the legal limit in most states around the United States.
After being awake for a full 24 hours, impairment jumps up to be comparable to a blood alcohol content of 0.1%
According to sleepfoundation.org, drowsy driving is most likely to happen during the overnight hours-between midnight and 6 a.m. It can also be common to see drowsy drivers during the late afternoon hours.
Those who sleep for less than six hours a day, suffer from sleep apnea, and young drivers, professional drivers, shift workers, and others are most at risk for drowsy driving.
Drivers should monitor signs of drowsy sleep while driving. Sleep Foundation lists the following warning signs to look out for:
- Heavy eyelids or frequent blinking
- Daydreaming and trouble focusing
- Poor recall of the last few miles
- Drifting back and forth between lanes
- Hitting rumble strips
- Drooping head
- Missing signs or exits
- Restlessness, irritability, and aggressiveness
Caffeine, opening the window, or turning the music up are only short-term fixes and can cause something called microsleep, which is when your brain flips rapidly between being asleep for a few seconds and then being awake. If you are tired while driving, especially while driving long distances, you should take frequent breaks or even pull over and take a 20-minute power nap in a safe place.