I have some good news and I have some bad news. Which do you want first? Ok. The Good news is that most drivers do NOT drive after drinking. The bad news is that most drivers HAVE driven under the influence......of the #3 cause of car crashes in this country......DRIVING DROWSY.

After staying awake for 24 hours straight, a person will be about as impaired as if he had had enough alcohol to be legally drunk in most states, a study says.

Australian researchers tested 40 people to create a "blood alcohol equivalent'' for different levels of impairment from sleeplessness.

In one experiment, participants stayed awake for 28 hours. In the other, they drank alcohol every half hour until they reached a blood alcohol concentration of 0.10 percent. That's the drunken-driving standard in most American states.

Every half hour, the subjects took a computerized test of hand-eye coordination.

Results showed that after 24 hours of sleeplessness, participants were about as impaired as they were at the 0.10 percent level of blood alcohol. After 17 hours, they were about as impaired as they were with an alcohol level of 0.05 percent, which many Western countries define as legally drunk, the researchers said.

The State of New Jersey has now made any injury crash involving fatigue, a felony.

Who is Most at Risk?

Young People- In a North Carolina state study, 55 percent

fatigue-related crashes involved people 25-years-old and younger; 78

percent of them were males.

Shift Workers- Studies suggest that 20 to 30 percent of those with

non-traditional work schedules have had a sleep-related driving mishap

within the last year. One study shows that shift workers are two to

five times more likely than employees with regular, daytime work hours

to fall asleep on the job.

Commercial Drivers- In addition to the high number of miles driven

each year, truck drivers also drive during the night. Most people are

programmed to sleep when it's dark; experts suggest that driving be

avoided during the "low" period between 2 and 6 a.m.


A small study of long-haul truck drivers in the United States and Canada has shown truckers don't get as much sleep as they need to be alert behind the wheel. Reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, the study showed that in one out of every eight trips, drivers did not get or did not take their full eight-hour breaks between shifts. When they got their breaks, they did not spend the time sleeping and, as a result, got far less rest than they needed.

The findings underscore the need to educate workers and schedulers about the importance of adequate sleep with respect to public safety,'' the researchers said.

Each year in the United States 110,000 people are injured and 5,000 killed in commercial truck accidents. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has concluded 1,500 people die each year in the United States when drivers -- both truckers and non-truckers -- fall asleep behind the wheel; another 76,000 are injured.

Truck drivers are supposed to get at least eight hours off duty each day and work no more than 60 hours per week. In the United States, drivers who have logged 10 hours behind the wheel must have the next eight off; in Canada the rule is 13 hours of driving time. Most drivers said they needed about seven hours of sleep a night. They got about five, with drivers who always worked nights getting an average of 4 1/2 hours. Drivers who always worked during the day tended to get 5 3/4 hours of sleep.

Although all 80 drivers knew they were being monitored on videotape, 45 had at least one episode where they were judged to be drowsy behind the wheel.

In an accompanying editorial, Dr. William Dement of Stanford University said the findings reflected his belief that ''pervasive drowsy driving is an established fact in the United States. Numerous polls have found that up to 56 percent of the general public drives while drowsy.''

Almost one quarter of 18 to 29-year olds report they have fallen asleep at the wheel at some point during the past year, according to a new survey on sleep and fatigue conducted by the National Sleep Foundation. And half of U.S. adults admit to driving while they are tired.

Reporting on the survey, Bloomberg said that the poll of 1,154 adults was taken in October and November 1999 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. Seventeen percent of those polled said they had fallen asleep while driving in the past year. Among 30- to 64-year olds, 15 percent reported falling asleep at the wheel in the past year, while only 5 percent of those 65 and older reported dozing off while driving.

Forty-two percent of those polled said they become "stressed" while driving drowsy and 12 percent say they drive faster when they are sleepy, according to the survey.

"Driving while drowsy is no different than driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs," said Richard Gelula, the National Sleep Foundation's executive director. "Sleepiness slows reaction time, decreases awareness and impairs judgment."

Undiagnosed Sleep Disorders Sufferers- A surprising number of people

are tired because they have a sleep disorder. Disorders such as

chronic insomnia, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, and restless leg syndrome-

all of which lead to excessive daytime sleepiness- afflict an

estimated 50 million Americans.

The effects of driving drowsy mimic the effect of driving drunk. It turns out to be a fact that your body CANNOT predict sleep onset. Now, we have all experienced that buzz behind the eyes that makes us say...."I just need to close my eyes for ONE SECOND"....but did you know that even though you may have every conscious intention of re-opening your eyes, the body may feel different and onset sleep at that split second? If you have ever fallen asleep at the wheel and lived to tell the tale, don't EVER say you are an unlucky person!

Let's take little quiz:

(courtesy of the AAA Foundation For Traffic Safety)

(PLEASE NOTE:Some FACTS, FIGURES and COMMENTS are re-worded by Mr. Traffic and are NOT as published by AAA, and they are not responsible for them....just moi.) TRUE OR FALSE?

Coffee overcomes the effects of drowsiness while driving.

I can tell when I'm going to fall asleep.

I'm a safe driver so it doesn't matter if I'm sleepy.

I can't take naps.

I get plenty of sleep.

Being sleepy makes you misperceive things

Young people need less sleep

Sleep? You can sleep when you're dead.


Caffeine is not a substitute for sleep. It works only in the short run and wears off FAST. You are still subject to sleep deprived "micro-naps" that can last 4-5 seconds. At 55 MPH, that is more than 100 yards!!!


Most people think this is true. It simply is not. If you're drowsy, you know generally when you might fall asleep, but the moment is something completely out of your control. You also do not know how long you have been asleep, and even a few seconds can end up with fatal results for you or someone else.


The ONLY safe driver is the alert driver. A driving instructor becomes a menace if they are sleepy behind the wheel. The young man who was awarded "America's Safest Teen Driver" in 1990 later fell asleep behind the wheel and was killed. Sucks.


Many people say this. If you think you can't nap, stop the car and recline for 15 minutes anyway. Find a quiet place that is safe.....the corner of a mall or a gas station. Lock your doors, and roll up your windows. I even carry a sleep mask in the car. People look at me funny, but hey.....Like I REALLY care what THEY think!


Ask yourself this.....do you wake up RESTED? I know precious few people who can answer that "YES". The average person needs 7-8 hours of sleep a night. If you don't get it, you are building up a "sleep debt" which is cumulative.


Have you ever driven at night and thought you'd seen an animal but it turned out to be something else (like your wife or husband)? A drowsy driver does not process information as fast or accurately as an alert driver and is unable to react quickly enough to avoid a collision. By the way....if you DO see a real animal, hitting one of THEM is like hitting a brick wall.....can be fatal to both of you.


In fact, teens and young adults need MORE sleep than people in their 30's. This is due to increased activity and output which need more regeneration time.

Here are some warning signals:

If you have any one of these symptoms....PULL OFF THE ROAD and take a nap. Please be aware though, that may states do NOT allow you to use the shoulder of a freeway or highway this way. (Oh, and for those of you who related to the Bea Arthur warning....seek help as SOON as you can.....Prozac is suggested!)

Sleeping and Driving Don't Mix

CALIFORNIA Fatigued Driver Campaign

Fact Sheet

Many more victims lose their lives in crashes for the same reason, but cannot report this fact to the investigating officer. Consequently the statistics underreport the actual number of victims.

The CHP stops many drivers who appear to be "under the influence" but who are just sleepy. If they hadn't been stopped, they may not have made it home safely.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that more than 200,000 auto collisions annually may be fatigue-related.

According to a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) study, 31percent of fatal-to-the-driver commercial truck collisions were caused by drowsiness.

In a study of fatal crashes on the New York Thruway, an estimated 40 to 50 percent occurred because the driver fell asleep at the wheel. However, this number cannot be extrapolated to all fatal crashes.

Stress is considered by most sleep experts to be the number one cause of short-term sleeping difficulties.

In a survey conducted by the state of New York, 24 percent of the respondents reported having fallen asleep at the wheel and nearly 5 percent reported having had a crash as a result.

Sources: National Sleep Foundation, AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety The National Sleep Foundation in Washington DC has a program called DRIVE ALERT-ARRIVE ALIVE which was launched in 1993 to increase public awareness of this problem. For more information on this problem, please contact them at:
1367 Connecticut Avenue, NW Suite 200
Washington, DC 20036

AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety,

1440 New York Avenue

N.W., Washington, D.C. 20005.

Thanks to the AAA Foundation For Traffic Safety for providing the artwork. For more information, printed brochures and other great stuff, check out their website by