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Is drowsy driving as dangerous as drunk driving?

According to the National Sleep Foundation, 24 hours without sleep is like having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .10, well above the legal limit. You may think you can drive late into the night, but this research shows otherwise.

While many drivers admit to driving sleepy, some have no choice. Truck drivers often feel that they must go without sleep to make a delivery on time, or a family emergency compels you to drive across the state. Drowsy drivers can create dangerous driving conditions everywhere.

What contributes to drowsy driving?

It could be the physics of eye movement and seat vibrations that can make you feel sleepy behind the wheel. When you drive, your brain processes information at a rapid pace that can be hard to maintain after a long day at work or an emotional event. Seat vibrations are known to cause chronic pain over time as well as trick your brain into thinking it has been physically active when it hasn’t.

Other things that contribute to drowsy driving include:

  • Medications or their side effects
  • An inconsistent sleep schedule
  • A medical condition (such as obstructive sleep apnea)
  • Driving longer than two hours without breaks
  • Driving at night

If you notice your vision blurring, your head falling forward, yawning or you drive over a rumble strip, it may be time to pull over. Napping for under twenty minutes can help you feel more alert, but naps over thirty minutes can have the opposite effect.

What can help you stay awake?

Consumer Reports states that the urban myths of rolling a window down or turning the radio up do not keep you awake. Instead, try the following:

  • Drink a cup of caffeinated coffee or tea and wait fifteen minutes.
  • Drive with an alert companion
  • Sleep at least seven hours before a long drive

You do not have to be a perfect driver, but you should avoid creating a dangerous situation when you drive. Always drive while alert and minimize distractions to reach your destination safely.

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