Drivers are told to "get more sleep" in an alarming new report that finds drowsy drivers are much like drunk drivers but get far less attention. A person who's been awake for 18 hours has a similar driving ability as someone with a 0.05% blood-alcohol content, while a person who's been awake for 21 hours rivals someone with a 0.08% BAC, the Governors Highway Safety Association report finds, reports USA Today. They scan the road less often, have slower reaction times, and close their eyes more often than those who are well-rested. "And we're all guilty of it," the author says. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says sleepy drivers were responsible for 72,000 crashes from 2009 to 2013, resulting in 800 deaths, but the report says fatigue actually kills 5,000 on our roads each year, reports WTOP.
The AAA Foundation puts the number at 6,400 deaths in 328,000 crashes annually. In a 2015 study, it found 31.5% of all drivers had struggled to keep their eyes open while driving during the previous month, while 43% said they'd nodded off at least once while driving. But unlike alcohol, it can be difficult to determine when fatigue is a factor in a crash and "law enforcement lacks protocols and training to help officers recognize drowsy," says a GHSA rep. "Teens and young adults are involved in more than half of drowsy driving crashes that we know of," another rep adds. "People are just up all night, texting with their friends." The cost isn't just in lives lost. The report claims insurance costs, medical expenses, and lost productivity stemming from drowsy crashes totaled $109 billion in 2015. (Read more driving stories.)