The Effects of Driving while Intoxicated

A car winds down a lone road late at night, often drifting into the opposite lane. The driver’s vison is impaired, and their reaction time is slow. Focusing is difficult, and they are having problems processing their short-term memory. Is the driver drunk? Surprisingly, they are not. The driver is fatigued.

In school people are taught the deadly effects of driving under the influence. Children learn that driving under the influence of alcohol leads to the death of about 27 people a day, and that someone is injured in a drunk driving incident every 120 seconds. They learn the legal penalties of driving under the influence, including serious jail time. Driving under the influence of alcohol is so dangerous that all 50 states have set a legal limit of .08% blood alcohol concentration. However, the dangers of driving while fatigued are often overlooked.

It is believed 30% of crashes are related to fatigue. Being fatigued can make a person drive like they have a blood-alcohol concentration of .05. If someone has been awake for a full 24 hours they may drive like they have a blood-alcohol concentration of .10%, .02% higher than the legal limit. Being exhausted and being under the influence of alcohol are both known to cause impaired judgement, slow reaction time, and irritability. Both can also lead to car crashes.

In today’s hectic society sleep can seem like a luxury. Many people juggle school, work and family, often at the same time. Driving while fatigued is dangerous, but what can be done with life’s responsibilities and deadlines looming on the horizon? Here are some tips on how to reduce fatigue and be more alert while driving.

The first, and most effective step to being more alert is to get enough sleep at night. It is also a good idea to drive during the time periods one feel most alert. The second step is to be aware of the symptoms of exhaustion. Frequent yawning, drooping eyelids, impaired concentration, and drifting in the road lane are all signs of fatigue. If a driver is experiencing these symptoms, it may be a good idea to let a more alert passenger drive. If no such passenger is present, the driver many pull over for a few minutes, set their phone alarm, and catch some sleep. Another technique for being more alert is to set the air conditioning to an uncomfortably low level in order to discourage sleep. Turning on exciting or upbeat music can also help a driver stay alert and avoid falling asleep at the wheel as well.

Driving while fatigued is dangerous. Many symptoms of exhaustion are similar to driving while drunk, and can result in a car wreck. It is important to understand the dangers of driving while fatigued and to take steps that help one feel more alert. Being alert while driving will make road conditions safer for everyone.


By: Bethany Sartain

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