Not everyone realizes that fatigue can impair your ability to safely drive a car as much as alcohol can. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, one in every six fatal car crashes involves an overtired driver. Tiredness affects your reaction time as well as your judgment, and the longer you go without sleeping, the worse the problem can get.
According to News21 and the Center for Public Integrity,
studies show that someone who has been without sleep for 24 hours
performs at the same level as someone with a 0.10 percent blood-alcohol
concentration, which is over the threshold for legal intoxication in New
In addition, Thomas Balkin, a sleep researcher and chairman of the
National Sleep Foundation, emphasized that fatigue-related auto
accidents are more likely to be severe because people who have fallen
asleep at the wheel do not do anything to mitigate the crash, such as
hit the brakes or steer away from a collision. –FindLaw.com
To combat the problem of drowsy driving, in 2003 New Jersey passed a law called Maggie’s Law that allows any driver who knowingly drives while fatigued (defined as going more than 24 hours without sleep) to be charged with vehicular homicide if he or she causes a fatal accident. Vehicular homicide is punishable by up to 10 years of prison time and a $100,000 fine. Before Maggie’s Law was passed, the worst an overtired driver could get for killing someone in New Jersey was a $200 fine. (Maggie’s Law was named after a young woman who was killed by a driver who’d fallen asleep at the wheel after not sleeping for 30 hours. The driver got just the $200 fine, along with a reckless driving citation.)
Whether you live in New Jersey or not, please realize how dangerous it is to drive while overtired, and either take a nap first or arrange another form of transportation if you have to travel but haven’t gotten enough sleep. Medical residents with 24+ hour hospital shifts, this means you too!