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Nonprofit compares drowsy driving impairment to alcohol intoxication

Previously, we looked briefly at the federal hours of service rules, which are largely aimed at preventing truck drivers from driving without adequate rest. The rules, of course, cannot guarantee that commercial drivers have sufficient rest to safely operate a commercial vehicle, but they go a long way toward doing so. Employers must also do their part to monitor employees and individual drivers are still responsible for exercising reasonable care.

Drowsy or fatigued driving, of course, is not a problem exclusively with commercial drivers, even if commercial drivers are particularly at risk. The problem affects all drivers, though. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that the annual cost of fatigue-related automobile fatalities and injuries is $109 billion, not including property damage.

That the costs of fatigue-related driving can be so high is not surprising, given that 83.6 million people are estimated to be driving while drowsy on any given day. Then there is also the extent of impairment drowsy driving can cause for a driver. The Governor’s Highway Safety Administration, in looking at the issue, compares drowsy driving to the degree of impairment caused by alcohol intoxication. According to the nonprofit, 18 hours without sleep is roughly equivalent to a blood alcohol concentration of 0.05%, 21 hours without sleep is equivalent to a BAC of 0.08%, and a full 24 hours without sleep is like having a BAC of 0.10%.

Even if these estimates are not completely accurate the idea is that fatigue is a serious issue when it comes to highway safety, and one that probably needs to be taken more seriously, not just for commercial vehicles drivers, but for all motorists. 

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