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Does not getting enough sleep really affect driving ability?

On Behalf of | Sep 26, 2019 | Personal Injury

Getting enough sleep seems to be a chronic problem for most people. Between work and personal obligations, it often takes a back seat to other things. If you have young children, you certainly understand how it feels to suffer from sleep deprivation.

Even though you are tired, you still have to go about your daily life, which may involve getting behind the wheel of your car. You may have heard somewhere that driving drowsy can be dangerous, but you may not fully understand just how much.

Very real risks come with driving drowsy

Would you intentionally drive drunk? More than likely, the answer to that question is no. But, if you get behind the wheel when you haven’t slept for at least 24 hours, your ability to safely drive is equivalent to that of an individual with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.10, according to the National Sleep Foundation. To put that into perspective, the legal limit here in Pennsylvania is 0.08, which means that, without sleep for 24 hours, you are as dangerous as someone with a BAC over the legal limit.

If you use a sleep aid to help you get your rest but end up driving before at least seven hours have passed since you took one, you run the risk of causing an accident. Those medications recommend that you allow at least seven to eight hours to pass in order to allow you to come fully awake. Otherwise, you could be groggy, which slows your reaction times and ability to drive safely.

What can you do to improve your chances of driving safely?

It probably wouldn’t surprise you to know that the most popular answer to that question as it relates to drowsy driving is to get enough sleep. Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that adults need no less than seven hours of sleep a night in order to function properly, especially when driving. If that isn’t possible, you can do the following to help you get to your destination without incident

  • If you drink coffee, have a cup to help give you a boost for a few hours. If not, a soda or tea could help, but you may need more to get the same caffeine as in a cup of coffee.
  • Know your body’s cues to when you need sleep, so you know when to pull over and nap. Excessive yawning, heavy eyelids and not remembering the last few miles all indicate you need some sleep.
  • If you haven’t left yet, you could take a short nap. Even a 15- to 20-minute nap with about five minutes afterward in order to come fully awake may be enough to get you where you need to go. Otherwise, you could pull over for that nap.
  • Having someone else ride with you who can take over when you get too tired could make all the difference, especially on long trips.

While you may do the best you can to make sure you aren’t tired while driving, others may not. If a drowsy driver causes an accident in which you suffer serious injuries, you may be able to pursue compensation for your financial and other losses associated with the crash. In order to know for sure, you could seek out a thorough review of your situation to determine the best course of action.

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