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Reminder: Drowsy Driving Can Be Very, Very Dangerous

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The serious reality: fatigue affects driving. Photo: Fuschia Foot.

The serious reality: fatigue affects driving.
Photo: Fuschia Foot

On the list of dangerous driving behaviors, what do you think would be at the top?

The first two would most likely be being drunk/intoxicated and texting/emailing/typing on anything. Probably also up there is eating, applying makeup, drinking any kind of beverage, or reading. However, according to an administrator from Harvard Medical School, one of the top items on that list should be driving while tired.

According to Charles Czeisler, Director of the Division of Sleep Medicine, driving has become “such a routine, highly-over-learned task” that a tired brain can take control and put you involuntarily to sleep. He went on to say, “It’s particularly concerning that 56 million Americans a month admit that they drive when they haven’t gotten enough sleep and they are exhausted. 8 million of them lose the struggle to stay awake and actually admit to falling asleep at the wheel every month—causing more than a million crashes every year, 50,000 debilitating injuries […], and 6,400 deaths.”

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Drowsy driving, Czeisler added, is a much larger problem for three groups. First, there are younger people, as after 24 hours awake, it is much more difficult for young people to resist the need to fall asleep. Second, there are night shift workers, who in a study Czeisler conducted nearly crashed in 37% of test drives. Finally, there are people with sleep disorders, especially sleep apnea (which has a very high number of undiagnosed cases), which can more than double risk of crashing.

In a way, you most definitely could consider drowsy driving to be a kind of distracted driving (except for the sleep apnea cases, which may require medical aid)—it takes your attention away from the road (and sometimes away from everything that isn’t visions of sugar plums), and causes thousands of crashes a year.

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News Sources: Jalopnik, Harvard School of Medicine