Dangers of Driving Tired

Dangers of Driving Tired

Driving when you are a little tired isn’t that big of a deal right? Well, actually it is. In fact, a new study shows that driving while you are tired is just as dangerous as driving drunk.Many times individuals who are driving while fatigued are unaware they are tired or may be so used to driving tired that they do not know how much danger they are in. But the reduced alertness brought on by fatigue makes these drivers a danger to themselves and everyone else who is on the road.

Driving while fatigued is so dangerous, that states have actually started passing legislation to punish those who drive while fatigued. The first law of this kind was passed in 2003 and is named Maggie’s law. Maggie’s Law originated in 1997, from a traffic crash in which 20-year-old Maggie McDonald was killed when a driver crossed three lanes of traffic and hit her car head on. The driver later admitted that he had not slept in 30 hours.

As awareness grows about the dangers of driving while fatigued, it is important that we make sure that we are not letting ourselves or the ones we love drive while they are tired. This article examines one of the main causes of fatigued driving; sleep apnea.

Commercial truck drives offer many tips to help keep you awake while driving. Listening to music you do not like, chewing sun flower seeds and sitting in an uncomfortable position are all thought to help keep one alert while driving. But The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) says that as many 28 percent of commercial driver’s license holders suffer from a common disorder called sleep apnea. While the tips listed above may marginally help someone who is sleep apnea free; most drivers will tell you that with sleep apnea, only an effective treatment can really help.

Sleep apnea is a breathing-related sleep disorder that causes brief interruptions of breathing during sleep. These pauses in breathing can last at least 10 seconds or more and can occur up to 400 times a night. Sleep apnea is a serious, potentially life-threatening condition that often goes unrecognized and undiagnosed.

Because sleep apnea affects your sleep, it also affects your daytime alertness and performance. Many people with sleep apnea report falling asleep at red lights or having to pull over and take a nap because they are literally unable to stay awake.

While many people are still unaware of sleep apnea, the disorder is very well known in industries that depend on commercial truck drives. In fact, a study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania and sponsored by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) found that almost one-third (28 percent) of commercial truck drivers have mild to severe sleep apnea.2   If someone with a commercial drivers license is diagnosed with sleep apnea, they are required to demonstrate that their sleep apnea is being treated before they are allowed to return to driving.

Currently sleep apnea is detected by physicians when patients complain that they are having trouble sleeping at night. But while sleep apnea testing is increasing, it is still heavily under diagnosed. In fact it is estimated that over 20 million Americans suffer from the disorder. Currently sleep apnea testing can be tested in a sleep lab or also in the patient’s home with a home sleep testing device. If left unchecked, sleep apnea can cause hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, depression, obesity along with a major loss in quality of life. Many times the symptoms of sleep apnea are very difficult to notice. If you believe that you may suffer from sleep apnea or would just like to get tested for peace of mind, please ask your physician about sleep testing.

Article Provided by:
Anne Turner BA, RRT, RPSGT, RST
A Turning Leaf Home Medical


1. Squatriglia, C. (2011). Driving Tired Is Like Driving Drunk
2. Pack A.I., Dinges D.F, & Maislin G. (2002). A study of prevalence of sleep apnea among commercial truck drivers (Report No. DOT-RT-02-030). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Transportation, FMCSA.

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