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Drowsy driving significantly increases car accident risk

While most San Diego residents would probably think twice about getting behind the wheel after having a few drinks, few would likely hesitate to drive while sleep-deprived. Yet according to research both new and old, both drunk and drowsy driving increase the likelihood of a car accident significantly. So why is drunk driving heavily regulated while drowsy driving seems to not to be warned against at all?

According to Christopher Drake of the Henry Ford Hospital Sleep Disorders and Research Center, there are some laws to penalize over-tired drivers. However, those laws are nearly impossible to enforce unless the driver falls asleep and causes a crash. This is because, unlike Breathalyzers or blood tests, there is no fair and accurate way to test for sleepiness.

However, traffic safety officials may soon be creating and implementing some testing method after yet another study was released demonstrating the harmful effects of drowsy driving. In the study, researchers looked at nearly 700 drivers who were admitted to the hospital after a serious car accident. They analyzed police reports about the crashes as well as driver questionnaires detailing alcohol use, medications and sleepiness to determine the causes of the accidents.

The researchers found that drivers between the ages of 18 and 29 were more likely to cause crashes, as were drivers who were sleepy or who had consumed alcohol. Interestingly, drivers on a medication with a warning about diminished driving ability were less likely to cause an accident, likely due to an awareness of the drugs' side effects.

Source: Reuters, "Sleepy, drunken drivers equally dangerous: study," Andrew M. Seaman, May 30, 2012

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