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Driving tired just as dangerous as driving while impaired

Exhaustion has become the norm for many people as they are running errands, working and shuttling kids around. Doctors recommend eight hours of sleep per night to help ensure the brain has the time it needs to heal itself and the body. Without proper rest, the body will start to run down.

Did you know that driving while tired can have the same effect as driving while impaired? While this type of infraction is not yet against the law in West Virginia, the state legislature may start following the lead set by other states and create a drowsy driving law.

A new epidemic

The number one reason people report nodding off behind the wheel is lack of sleep. Failing to get the required rest to recharge can leave drivers doing the following:

  • Zoning out – not remembering where they just were
  • Missing out – failing to take the turn or missing their exit
  • Drifting out – zig-zagging across lanes and shoulders

The CDC recently reported that every month, one driver out of every 25 falls asleep while driving.

Shift work

People who work the night shift have to start sleeping during the day so they can stay awake in the evening. Over time, those who work opposite hours do not always maintain them, especially on days off work and weekends. Drastically changing sleep patterns often can lead to the Circadian rhythm getting thrown out of whack. This is the body's sleep-wake cycle, and if it gets off track too much, it can throw off the entire body's systems. It is responsible for regulating hormone release, including those that wake the brain up. If the Circadian rhythm is off, drivers can no longer control when their brain shuts off and goes to sleep. Thus, they may doze off while behind the wheel without recognizing what is going on.

New Jersey was the first state to pass a drowsy driving law in 2003, but several other states have followed suit. Drivers who think they are alert enough to operate a motor vehicle when they are not may cause a crash. Spotting the signs of drowsy or impaired driving may help other drivers to avoid potential accidents.

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