Driving While Fatigued – The Dangers of Drowsy Drivers

Drowsy drivers are as dangerous as drunk drivers when sleep deprivation causes impairment equal to drugs or alcohol.  Two Australian studies demonstrate that being awake for 18 hours produces impairment equal to a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.05% and 0.10% after 24 hours.  A BAC of 0.08% is considered legally drunk.

DWF Compared to DWI:  Australian researcher Dr. Ann Williamson of the University of New South Wales found that being awake 17-19 hours roughly equates to a BAC of 0.05%.  Australian researcher Dr. Drew Dawson conducted a study and found that a person who had been sleep deprived for 22 hours had a level of impairment comparable to a person who has a BAC of 0.08% and a person who had been sleep deprived for 24 hours was comparable to a person with a BAC of 0.10%. Source:  www.cicadian.com/expert.

Maggie’s Law:  Research demonstrating the comparability of fatigue impairment and alcohol impairment is the basis of new laws such as Maggie’s Law in New Jersey, N.J.S.2C:11-5, whereby drivers involved in fatal accidents after being awake for 24 hours or more are subject to the same punishment as legally drunk drivers.  www.sleepfoundation.org/activities/daaamain.cfm.

The Incidence of DWF:   The National Sleep Foundation estimates that about one-half of America’s adult drivers – 51 percent or approximately 100 million people – are on the roads feeling sleepy while they are driving.  Nearly two in 10 drivers – 17 percent or approximately 14 million people – say they have actually fallen asleep at the wheel in the past year.   www.sleepfoundation.org/activities/daaamain.cfm.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has estimated that 100,000 police-reported vehicle crashes per year are the direct result of driver fatigue.  These crashes result in 1,550 fatalities, 71,000 injuries, and $12.5 billion in monetary damages.  Source:  www.nhtsa.dot.gov/people/injury/drowsy_driving1/.

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