Drowsy driving is as dangerous as drunk driving

Sleep is as necessary to human beings as breathing and eating. Yet too many of us try to get away with not getting enough sleep at night. Among the possible consequences of chronic drowsiness is causing a car crash by nodding off at the wheel.

The next time you are on the road, look around. There is a good chance one of the motorists around you is too tired to drive safely. A 2005 survey conducted by the National Sleep Foundation found that 60 percent of adult drivers admitted driving drowsy at least once in the prior year.

Much of the time, drivers are more than a little fatigued. More than a third of respondents reported actually falling asleep behind the wheel. Thirteen percent said they doze off while driving at least once a month.

Dozing drivers cause an estimated 100,000 car accidents in the U.S. each year, resulting in 1,550 deaths and 71,000 nonfatal injuries. This is because fatigue can cause lapses in attention, impatience, speeding and other risk factors. Clearly, sleep deprivation is a serious problem on American roads.

Many people think they can get by just fine on a few hours’ sleep a night, but for the most part it is not true. One study found that people who slept less than five hours a night were four to five times more likely to get into a car accident than those who slept for eight hours or more. Another study compared being awake for 24 hours straight to having a blood-alcohol level of 0.10 percent, which would be well over the legal limit.

The solution to this problem is simple: get more sleep. Unfortunately, responsible motorists have no way to know who on the road is too tired to drive until it is too late to avoid a wreck.