Drowsy Driving: Is It As Dangerous As Drunk Driving?

Being drowsy behind the wheel may be as dangerous as being drunk

Being drowsy behind the wheel may be as dangerous as being drunk


Drug use is frowned on, everybody knows that. So when someone gets behind the wheel of their car under the influence of drugs, people are not very forgiving. After all, you should have known better, right? But what about tired people who get behind the wheel after working a double shift? Or a new mom who hasn’t had a solid night of sleep in two months? Or that teen who stayed up all night studying for their exam and now they’re driving to school on just two hours of sleep and a huge cup of coffee?

Are these people a danger to others on the road? According to a recent study conducted as a joint effort between the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, and the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research, the answer to that may be ‘yes.’ The study, which they called Drowsy Driving and Automobile Crashes, reveals that drowsy driving can be almost as dangerous as drugged or drunk driving.


Results of the study show that sleepiness impairs performance, whether that means your ability to stay focused at your job, or your ability to operate your vehicle. If you are tired, you will not be able to do anything with the same sharp focus and reaction times as if you were well rested. Driving is something that requires a person to pay attention to multiple sources of information simultaneously, and then respond accordingly. This means it can be very hard to drive safely when you are tired.


The factors that most commonly contribute to drowsy driving crashes are:

  • sleep loss,
  • certain driving patterns (like regular late night driving, or driving long distances on a regular basis),
  • use of sedation medications (sleeping pills),
  • Untreated or unrecognised sleep disorders
  • Alcohol consumption, (which makes drowsiness even worse)


According to the study, “Sleep is a neurobiological need… Sleepiness results from the sleep component of the circadian cycle of sleep and wakefulness, restriction of sleep, and/or interruption or fragmentation of sleep. The loss of one night’s sleep can lead to extreme short-term sleepiness, while habitually restricting sleep by 1 or 2 hours a night can lead to chronic sleepiness.” So what does this mean for us Michigan drivers?


Study results claim that “sleepiness causes auto crashes because it impairs performance and can ultimately lead to the inability to resist falling asleep at the wheel.” It also lists the critical aspects of impaired driving that are associated with sleepiness as:

  • reaction time,
  • vigilance,
  • attention, and
  • information processing.


The people most at risk for drowsy driving are apparently young people (in particular young males more so than females), shift workers and people with untreated sleep disorders. So while it is widely known that drunk driving and drugged driving are illegal and sometimes deadly, it doesn’t appear that the dangers of drowsy driving are so widely known.


We would like to recommend that our readers try to get a good night’s sleep before getting behind the wheel because drowsiness may be as dangerous as drugs or alcohol when it comes to driving. However, if you have been pulled over and arrested for drunk, drugged or impaired driving, call us immediately at 866 766 5245. The Kronzek Firm has decades of experience defending drunk / drugged drivers in Michigan, and we can help you too.


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