According to the National Safety Council, sleep deprivation can cause many of the same impairments that alcohol consumption can cause. Both sleep deprivation and alcohol consumption can worsen someone’s reaction times, awareness of hazards and ability to sustain attention, which can make drowsy driving as dangerous as drunk driving.
Some people might assume that long-haul truck drivers are most at risk for drowsy driving. This may be logical because truckers may be inclined to work long hours without sleep and may try to drive through the night. However, truckers are not the only people who may be tempted to drive when drowsy.
Six other high-risk groups
All adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night, and the human body’s natural sleep-wake cycle makes people most tired at night and during the early morning. Fighting the need for adequate sleep or the natural circadian rhythms can make it dangerous for anyone to drive.
However, there are a few groups of people who may have a higher risk for drowsy driving than others. Some of these groups of people, include:
- New parents
- Shift workers
- People working long hours
- Business travelers who cross time zones
- Young drivers, especially men younger than age 26
- People with undiagnosed or untreated sleep disorders
How common are drowsy driving crashes?
Unfortunately, it can be difficult to determine exactly how often drowsy drivers cause collisions. Drivers who fall asleep at the wheel are usually woken up by the crash, so they may not appear sleepy on the scene. They may also fail to report that they fell asleep.
Drowsy driving may also be underreported because drivers may experience micro-sleep without realizing it or may not fall asleep at all. Instead, their driving skills may simply be impaired by their sleep deprivation.
However, one person’s irresponsible decision to start or continue driving when drowsy can cause significant harm to others. Those who are injured in a suspected drowsy driving crash may consider exploring their options for justice.