Was the Driver Who Hit Your Car Drunk — Or Sleep Deprived?

Have you seen a driver keep drifting into your lane, hitting the rumble strip or running a red light until another driver beeps the horn and he slams on his brakes? The driver is drunk, right? No, maybe he or she fell asleep at the wheel. The effects of sleep deprivation are similar to alcohol consumption. Going 20 hours without sleep is equivalent to drinking until you have reached a .08 percent blood alcohol concentration (BAC), which would put you legally over the limit. Unlike drinking, however, you may not worry about feeling a little tired. Presumably everyone knows that drunk driving is dangerous. But the seriousness of drowsy driving is not widely appreciated. A person who would not consider getting behind the wheel after getting wasted at a bar might think nothing about doing so after being awake all night or only getting five hours of sleep. What are the risks of getting hit by a fatigued driver? Americans are chronically sleep-deprived. This translates into…

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