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Why drowsy driving could be just as bad as driving under the influence

Woman with car key
Posted at 11:03 AM, Nov 02, 2022

Drowsy driving, which experts say is just as dangerous as drunk driving, is to blame for more than 6,400 deaths in the U.S. each year.

New data released today shows many Americans know the risks, but they do it anyway. The National Sleep Foundation surveyed more than 1,000 drivers.

Over 60 percent said they drove a car when they were so tired they could barely keep their eyes open.

The foundation says this is dangerous for several reasons:

  • Sleepiness slows reaction time
  • Decreases awareness of your surroundings
  • Impairs judgment
  • Increases risk of crashing.

"It's important to think about drowsy driving as impaired driving,” said Natalie Dautovich with the National Sleep Foundation. “Just like drunk, drugged or distracted driving, drowsy driving is a real public health issue."

She says drowsy driving is also an equity issue. She says people of historically underserved populations reported higher rates of drowsy driving.

"We know there's an occupation risk to drowsing driving, so if you're working extended shifts, if you're working rotating shifts or night shifts, you're at greater risks for driving drowsy," Dautovich said. "We know that historically marginalized individuals are more likely to have some of those occupational hazards."

She says the most important thing you can do is try to get enough sleep before getting behind the wheel. The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults get 7-9 hours of sleep a night.