Georgia Drowsy DrivingDriving While Drowsy Mimics Drunk Driving and Cause Accidents that May Result in Serious Felony Charges
Everyone knows how important sleep is – after all, humans spend about a third of their lives asleep. However, in this day and age, more and more people are beginning to pride themselves on how little sleep they need every night.
Not getting enough sleep can certainly come back to haunt you. Numerous scientific studies conducted in the 1980s where laboratory rats were deprived of sleep indefinitely. In as little as five days, the rats began to die.
Lack of sleep affects humans in many ways. It affects your attention span, your memory, reaction time, and the speed at which you think. If you let the lack of sleep cumulate, it continues to add a deficit to your cognitive abilities.
Scientists say that most people should sleep between seven and eight hours a night. However, a recent study found that most people sleep an average of 6.7 hours a night. Ironically, Atlanta has been identified as the #1 location for sleeplessness of its population, due to a combination of long days, a very active social life, stressful job situations and a host of other factors.
Not getting enough sleep can endanger your life. A recent study done in 2007 involved approximately 250 people volunteered to have their vehicles wired with cameras. Over a year, the researchers discovered that driving while drowsy was the riskiest behavior engaged in by drivers did in a vehicle. That means it is more dangerous that drunk driving and more dangerous that distracted driving by using a cell phone or PDA while operating a vehicle.
Of even greater significance, an accident caused by lack of sleep, or continuing to drive after you have been nodding off repeatedly has been held to be “reckless driving”, and (when an accident involving death or serious injury to another person as a result of the “driving while drowsy”) this traffic offense can he the basis for upgrading a normal misdemeanor offense of reckless driving into a felony vehicular homicide [O.C.G.A. §40-6-393(a)] felony vehicular feticide [O.C.G.A. §40-6-393.1(b)(1)] or felony serious injury by vehicle [O.C.G.A. §40-6-394]. See Walden v. State, 273 Ga.App. 707, 616 S.E.2d 462 (2005)
People who drive while tired are likely to lapse into sleep in the car. These lapses, known as “micro-sleeps,” can occur even when their eyes are open. All it takes is 2 seconds of a lapse while driving your car at highway speeds to completely drift out of the lane.
Many people think that turning up the radio or turning on the air conditioner full blast will keep them alert while driving. However, these things do little to keep a tired driver from having one of these lapses.
If an officer notices this erratic driving pattern, he or she may pull the driver over on suspicion of DUI. Officers are trained to look for signs of intoxication. Things such as bloodshot and watery eyes, trouble answering questions, and slurred speech are often attributed to being drunk. Extreme lack of sleep can, and often does, mirror the same behaviors.
The driver will also have trouble performing field sobriety tests. Because these agility exercises tests require fully-functioning cognitive abilities and reaction time, the driver will more than likely fail a field sobriety test and be arrested for driving under the influence. I advise AGAINST anyone attempting to complete these exercises, due to the highly subjective grading by police officers and the inconsistent adherence by virtually all officers with NHTSA’s strict guidelines for proper administration of these standardized evaluations.
Do you ever find yourself driving while drowsy? How does it affect your driving abilities? After reading this posting, perhaps fewer drivers will engage is such risky behavior.By: William C. Head, Senior Partner
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