Is drowsy driving as bad as drunk driving?

Drowsy driving may be more dangerous than people assume. In fact, officials say being sleep-deprived is as impairing as driving drunk.

Everyone understands the dangers of getting behind the wheel after having too much alcohol. It is no secret that drunk driving claims countless lives each year across the country. However, residents of California and elsewhere may underestimate the serious dangers of being too fatigued to drive but getting behind the wheel anyway.

After all, it is not necessarily illegal to drive while sleepy, even though the impairments of driving drowsy can be just as dangerous as driving over the legal alcohol limit, if not more so.

Drowsy driving statistics in California

Officials from the California Highway Patrol have cited drowsy driving as a significant cause of accidents and fatalities in the state. In 2016, 6,930 accidents and 47 traffic deaths in California were attributed to sleepy drivers.

How is drowsy driving like drunk driving, though? People may be surprised to learn that being awake for 24 hours or longer has the same impairment effects when operating a motor vehicle as driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.10 percent - higher than the legal limit.

Risk factors and indicators of fatigued driving

With today's fast-paced society, anyone can be sleep-deprived and get behind a wheel. However, those who are most likely to drive drowsy include commercial drivers, shift workers, high school and college students, parents of young children and people with untreated sleep disorders. Those who take medications with sedating effects are also likely to nod off behind the wheel.

The following precautions can reduce a driver's risks of being involved in a drowsy driving accident:

· Get a full night's sleep before taking a trip, and address any sleep or medication problems with a doctor.

· Bring someone who can switch places during a long drive.

· Be aware of the signs of being too sleepy to drive, which include drifting out of the lane, hitting the freeway rumble strip, having trouble keeping eyes open, nodding off, missing exits and forgetting the last few miles driven.

· Do not rely on common tricks like caffeine, loud music or cold air to stay awake for long periods.

· Pull over in a safe place for a rest if too tired to drive.

The above tips may increase your safety, but they will not change the driving behaviors of others. You may be entitled to seek compensation if you are injured by the negligent actions of a drowsy driver. It can help to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney in California to discuss your legal options.