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How does sleep deprivation affect drivers?

On Behalf of | Aug 12, 2022 | Motor Vehicle Accidents

Drivers come across many dangers and risks both on the road and before they even get into their vehicle. While many people think intoxication serves as the worst potential danger, this is not necessarily the case.

In fact, another type of distracted driving has similar repercussions as intoxicated driving, and yet people continue to take part in it. But what is this issue?

What happens to drowsy drivers?

The CDC discusses drowsy driving, a form of distracted driving that has massive repercussions which rarely get spoken of.

Drowsy driving occurs when a driver hits the road without getting enough sleep. This can result in symptoms that actually mirror intoxication, such as delayed reaction, lower attention spans, slow reflexes and the inability to recognize dangers as they appear.

Drowsy drivers also risk experiencing microsleep, which involves periods of unconsciousness lasting from 1 to 3 seconds. This is enough time to drive the length of a football field on the freeway.

Those who suffer from high enough levels of exhaustion can also simply fall asleep, rendering them completely incapable of reacting to their surroundings for even longer periods of time.

Risks of microsleep

Many drivers who suffer from microsleep or who fall asleep at the wheel notice that they experience a significant increase in drowsiness in the moments leading up to it. However, some drivers report feeling tolerable levels of sleepy before they fall asleep.

Note that wakefulness tips and tricks do not actually work in the long term, and that fighting sleepiness will only eventually lead to a crash. Drivers experiencing such issues should pull into a rest stop or another place where it is safe to sleep for a short while to recover.