Why driving while fatigued is dangerous

Many North Carolina motorists who would never drive after having a couple of drinks might get behind the wheel while fatigued without a second thought. However, driving while fatigued can be as dangerous as driving under the influence in some cases.


It can be difficult to measure statistics on the number of crashes caused by alcohol compared to drowsy driving since the former is easier to measure than the latter. While drowsy driving is underreported, some experts estimate that it can account for as many as 21% of deadly motor vehicle accidents compared to 30% for drunk driving.

Effects of fatigue

If you are driving while fatigued, your reaction time, judgment and problem-solving skills can be impaired just as they would be if you had been drinking. This increases over time without sleep, with people who are awake for 20 hours showing an impairment similar to that of individuals whose blood alcohol content is at or above the legal limit. However, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reports that these extremes are not necessary to create a danger. For example, after sleeping just six to seven hours a night, people have double the risk of being involved in a crash. Fewer than five hours of sleep raises the risk even higher.

Avoiding drowsy driving

Surveys have found that around half of all drivers in the United States say they have driven while sleepy, and 20% say they have fallen asleep driving. Drivers should watch for signs they are becoming too tired, such as drifting in lanes and problems focusing.

Taking drowsy driving more seriously can provide significant safety benefits for drivers, their passengers and other individuals on or near the road, including pedestrians. This could mean a substantial drop in the number of injuries and fatalities caused by motor vehicle accidents each year.