Most drivers have seen the warning signs hanging over parkways and interstates; in fact, it is hard to avoid them. No matter the state, these signs urge drivers against operating vehicles while drowsy. With all of the warnings aside, is driving tired really as dangerous as, for instance, driving while drunk? Despite the driving habits of countless working Virginians, some experts are afraid so. However, this issue requires a bigger solution than simply getting more rest. 

In today’s professional world, it can be tempting to go above and beyond work expectations — this includes attempts to work longer hours. Unfortunately, as Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shares, drowsy driving is a major problem in the United States, as 1 in 25 adult drivers report having dozed off at the wheel in the last 30 days. The problem not only affects a certain demographic, either: commercial drivers who operate large vehicles, drivers who use medications and those with sleep disorders are at a particularly high risk. Each driver requires different sleep needs, but the CDC states that it is crucial to pull over at any sign of tiredness or fatigue.

While it can happen to anyone, those who work long and grueling hours are more susceptible to falling asleep while on the road. The National Sleep Foundation provides a narrower scope into the problem of sleep related crashes, showing that, compared to other age groups, adults aged 18-29 are more likely to drive while tired. While all drivers must make a conscious decision whether or not to get behind the wheel when fatigued, it seems that pressure to work longer hours and the fact that many do not have alternative options when it comes to work shifts plays a large role in crashes. In the case of truck drivers, for instance, the NSF shares a study which revealed that 18 hours of wakefulness produced impairments similar to a blood alcohol concentration of .05. The NSF goes on to state that shift workers also have higher chances of driving drowsy than those who hold regular daytime work schedules. The exact culprit of drowsy driving is a complex one, but it appears that the problem is not always internal, and can worsen with fatigue-inducing work hours.