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Which is more dangerous: drunk driving or drowsy driving?

Drunk driving gets a lot of attention and for good reason. It is a serious problem on New York roads, including in Ontario County, which ranked higher in DWI fatalities for every 100,000 people than did every county in New York City according to a 2015 news report on

However, another dangerous form of driving that deserves attention is drowsy driving. Whether people are traveling, trucking across country or coming off an all-night shift, getting behind the wheel when sleepy is also becoming a significant road hazard.

The effects of fatigue on the body

You may be wondering which is more severe: driving while alcohol impaired or driving while fatigued. The answer is that they are equally harmful. The National Sleep Foundation shares that 18 hours of straight awake time can lead to the same physical effects as having a BAC of 0.05 percent. Increase the time to a full 24 hours, and the effects are like that of a 0.10 percent BAC. In both cases, reaction time slows down, drivers have a hard time staying in their lanes and memory becomes impaired.

How drowsy driving can sometimes be worse

However, drowsy driving sometimes can be worse because falling asleep at the wheel completely eliminates the ability of drivers to react to dangers. A nodding-off driver can be hurtling down the highway until a collision occurs, whereas an intoxicated driver may still be aware of surroundings and try to avoid crashing.

Signs of sleepy drivers

Accidents from sleep-deprived drivers are just as serious as those from DWI. Serious injuries and property damage can occur, so it is wise to know the signs of a sleepy driver so you can avoid the vehicle. They include the following:

  • Drifting
  • Swerving
  • Tailgating
  • Speeding (if on a highway)

If you notice these signs, stay as far away from the vehicle as you can. You may also want to notify the police to get the driver off the road before an accident happens.

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