In South Africa, whilst the culture around drunken driving has changed (it’s just not cool anymore in case you missed the naming and shamingmemo), the culture around drowsy driving has not seemed to shift.
As our numbers of drivers has increased and the quality of our national roads has improved, many more drivers are tackling long road trips and not scheduling in enough stops or sleepovers.
Being awake for 20 hours is the equivalent to being legally drunk. Your judgment is greatly impaired as is your response time.
However, what is more worrisome than the word finding difficulties you will experience is the microsleeps that your brain will be forced to take while you are ‘awake’ and at the wheel.
A microsleep is just that- a very short sleep that happens while your eyes are open. The reason drowsy driving is so deadly is that during a microsleep there will be no reaction at all whereas with drunken driving there is at least a reaction – albeit a delayed or incorrect one.
For example, a drowsy driver will crash head on into a barricade at full speed as they were asleep at the moment the car required steering. However, a drunken driver will usually see the barricade, start turning and decelerate but still crash into the barricade. The impact for the drunken driver would then be less severe.
This is not to say that drunken driving is in anyway recommended- but rather to show how much more seriously we should take drowsy driving.
Here’s what you can do if you find yourself in a drowsy driving predicament.