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Are tired motorists as dangerous as drunk drivers?

A recent story in USA Today highlights the surprising answer: Drowsy driving can be just as deadly as drunk or drugged driving.

According to statistics provided by the AAA Foundation, drowsy drivers are involved in one of every six deadly car accidents and one in eight resulting in serious injuries.

And what makes drowsy driving such a serious threat is the fact that so many motorists drive while sleepy. According to the USA Today story, 32 percent of U.S. drivers admitted to driving drowsy in the past month. This comes even as 96 percent of respondents to the AAA Foundation’s study agreed that driving while sleepy is unacceptable behavior.

The USA Today story quotes the chief executive officer of the AAA Foundation, who says that drivers tend to underestimate the impact that being sleepy has on their driving skills. This unfortunate tendency puts both the sleepy drivers and other motorists on the road in serious danger, the official said.

According to the AAA Foundation, two out of every five drivers — 41 percent of all motorists — in the United States admit to having fallen asleep at the wheel of their cars. One in 10 admitted to having done so in the past year.

The lesson here is clear: Drivers should never get behind the wheel when they’re tired. Doing so dramatically increases the chance that they’ll suffer a serious car accident.

Source: USA Today, “Drowsy driving ‘unacceptable,’ but one-third do it” Nov. 12, 2011