Everybody knows that drinking and driving is dangerous. Whether you’ve been told that drinking and driving is dangerous by your parents and people you grew up with, or you know somebody who has suffered the consequences of such an action, it isn’t really news to anybody anymore. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always stop people from doing it.
Unlike drinking and driving though, many people don’t feel like they are at risk when they get behind the wheel of a car when they’re drowsy or overly tired. In fact, many people around the world do it on a regular basis, particularly in the United States, where not getting enough sleep just seems like par for the course.
But which one is really more dangerous? While you shouldn’t be doing either one, there are some differences that you might want to know about. Having said that, you’ll always do your best and safest driving when you’re awake and under the legal limit, so that’s what you should aim for at all times.
Otherwise you should be catching a ride with a friend, taking a cab or walking. Better yet, sleep off the alcohol or that high-level drowsy feeling.
Effects of Alcohol
Most people know the effects of alcohol, at least in terms of how they feel when they drink it to the point that they would consider themselves drunk. It generally creates a happy feeling at first, but can then make the drunk person feel depressed in the long-term.
When it comes to driving, alcohol is a cause of many accidents, and it’s the third most common lifestyle-related death in the United States, put in the same category as smoking cigarettes. We all know that driving drunk can put you, your passengers and everybody else on the road at risk, so don’t do it.
Effects of Sleep Deprivation
Sleep deprivation seems like something that would be different for everybody, and while you might not feel sleep deprived after 18 hours of going without sleep, that’s pretty much the point that it starts. Not getting enough sleep for two or three nights in a row can also cause you to be in a state of sleep deprivation all the time, even during your waking hours like when you’re at work or walking down the street.
That’s why many people live in a state of mild sleep deprivation all the time, even if they no longer feel it. Their normal has become a state of sleep deprivation.
Comparing Drunk Driving vs. Sleep Deprived Driving
Comparing drunk driving and sleep deprived driving isn’t something that’s particularly easy to do, nor have there been a lot of tests that compare them. However, in recent years, the importance of not driving when you’re overly tired has been made clearer, so more and more tests are being conducted.
One such test pitted drivers who had a blood alcohol level of 0.05 against their sleep deprived selves. In that study, the individuals who hadn’t slept for 16 hours did about the same as they did when they had the 0.5 BAC level. However, after 17 hours, these individuals performed at the same level that they would when having a 0.1 BAC level, which is legally drunk and offensive in the United States.
Another study found that individual who had sleep apnea, a chronic condition that wakes people up and makes it difficult for them to enter deep REM sleep through the night, performed worse than drivers who had consumed alcohol because of their level of sleep deprivation.
In fact, individuals suffering from sleep apnea did worse than people who had a blood alcohol level of 0.057 and 0.083 in the tests.
While these alcohol levels aren’t as high as the previous study, which allowed some individuals to have a 0.10 blood alcohol level, it’s clear that severe sleep deprivation is just as dangerous as drunk driving.
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