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How does sleep deprivation lead to crashes?

On Behalf of | Apr 22, 2022 | Car Accidents, Motor Vehicle Accidents |

Many different components factor into what does or does not trigger a car crash. Some components play a much larger role than others, though.

This includes sleep deprivation. Drowsy driving is an enormous issue among all sorts of drivers, and it has recently gained national attention for the damage it can cause.

The brain when drowsy

The CDC looks into causes of crashes, including sleep deprivation. “Drowsiness” as a term tends to seem somewhat misleading, as people often think of being just a little sleepy when they hear the word. In reality, drowsy driving has more to do with sleep deprived levels of exhaustion.

In this state, the brain actually functions in a way similar to if the driver had consumed alcohol. Drivers will experience delayed reflexes, slower reaction times, and more trouble picking apart dangers that they need to react to from other situations.

The risk of microsleep

It is also possible for sleep deprived drivers to experience something called microsleep. This occurs when the driver falls unconscious for a period of time, usually lasting no more than three seconds. This may not seem like a long time, but on the highway, it is possible to travel the length of a football field in around that time.

On top of this, sleep deprivation is a big risk because of the way drivers misunderstand it. Many drivers falsely believe they can simply “push past” the exhaustion, especially using wakefulness tips and tricks. But these tricks only work for a limited amount of time and mostly give drivers a false sense of security that they can stay awake when they cannot. It is just another layer of danger on this dangerous feat.