It’s been pounded over and over again into our heads: don’t drink and drive, don’t drink and drive. But what about for drowsy driving? Don’t drive drowsy? It’s not discussed as much, and it really should be.
Sleep deprivation affects a lot of people. A study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that over a third of adults in the U.S. don’t get the necessary seven hours of sleep a day for “optimal health.” And, as Reuters reports via Autoblog, once these drivers get behind the wheel, their driving is very similar to that of a drunk driver’s: cars weaving or drifting off the road.
Only Arkansas and New Jersey have enacted fatigued driver laws, but it’s hard to prosecute:
One reason it’s tricky: When a fatigued driver is stopped by police, adrenaline usually kicks in and he doesn’t appear to be sleepy.
“We don’t have a sleep meter, like we have a breathalyzer, so it’s difficult to recognize drowsy driving,” said Pam Fischer, the Governors Highway Safety Association consultant who wrote the report. “It’s hard to prosecute, hard to make the case, and hard to enforce unless the driver readily admits it.”
Fischer says that officers need to be trained in order to better identify sleepy drivers and signs of fatigued driving when they get to the scene of a crash.
At the same time, we as drivers need to learn that it’s not socially acceptable to drive while drowsy. I’ve known people to get in a car even though they’ve just finished telling me how tired they are. Yet, nobody parks a banged up car from a drowsy driving crash in front of the high school just before prom weekend.
Rest up, friends! It’s important.