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Is Driving While Tired the Same as Drunk Driving?

Guy DiMartino Aug. 10, 2016

If the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gets its way – the answer is a resounding YES.

While the nature and extent of injuries in accidents have trended downward over the years because of vehicle safety, In 2015, deaths because of traffic accidents rose to just under 8 percent.

About 20% of all traffic deaths are linked to drowsy driving. Experts think the number is a heck of a lot higher because there is no test for being sleepy like a blood or breath alcohol test for drunk driving.

The GHSA just completed a report estimating that it costs society, that is all of US, about $109 billion every year.

Will Laws Stop Drowsy Driving?

NHTSA wants to expand IMPAIRED driving to include drunk, drugged, distracted, and now drowsy driving. In reality, how can a police officer, deputy or trooper, at the scene of an accident cite or arrest someone for driving while sleepy. The executive director of the GHSA said:

“Law enforcement lacks protocols and training to help officers recognize drowsy driving at roadside. And if a crash occurs, the drowsy driver may not report the cause due to concerns about monetary and other penalties.”

With that being said, how can a law enforcement officer find that a driver was drowsy and that caused the crash.

Can the Government Proscribe Behavior?

I do not believe that the government can tell people how to live their lives. Making drowsy driving a violation or crime will not change the way that people drive. The best way to handle this situation is by education. Specifically, explaining to drivers he mechanics involved in accidents. How the brain perceives dangers (perception/reaction time), and how drowsy driving can negatively impact a driver's ability to perceive and react to dangers.

The GHSA report suggests that the goal should be to get the public to recognize and understand the seriousness of drowsy driving. I agree with this recommendation, but I do not believe that society can legislate driver's behavior.