When drivers get behind the wheel, it is important to maximize safety in any way possible. This includes getting enough sleep before the drive. Unfortunately, many drivers struggle to get the recommended amount of sleep on a nightly basis, leading to sleep deprivation and exhaustion.
Just how much can these conditions affect driver safety? Can driving while sleep-deprived or exhausted severely impact the chance of making it to a destination unharmed?
Similarities between sleepy and intoxicated drivers
Sleep Foundation looks into the impact of drowsiness, sleep disorders and other forms of sleep deprivation on driver safety. Many people suffer from some level of exhaustion due to a combination of difficult and rigorous schedules, not having enough time in the day, or failing to sleep well due to sleep disorders like insomnia. This leads to exhaustion and sleep deprivation in chronic cases.
When exhausted, drivers often exhibit similar problems to intoxicated drivers. This can include a failure to recognize and react to dangers appropriately, misidentification of hazards and slowed reflexes.
Falling asleep behind the wheel
Tired drivers also risk falling asleep behind the wheel, which completely robs them of the ability to react to anything including dangers. Many drivers who fall asleep will drift off the side of the road, or even cross the meridian into oncoming traffic. A large percentage of these collisions have extremely traumatic or even fatal effects.
The only way to guarantee drowsy driving poses no hazard is to ensure the driver gets enough sleep before hitting the road. No shortcut currently exists to “cheat” sleepiness and make a drive safely when one is already exhausted.