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Driving While Drowsy As Bad As Driving Drunk

Drowsy driving is a lot like drunk driving.

Drowsy driving is a lot like drunk driving.

Ever succumb to the desire to just snap that screaming baby into the car and take her for a long, soothing drive? The more tired you get, the more tempting it is to let the car seat lull your fussy little one to sleep.

Try that in New Jersey and you’d be breaking the law.

That’s because New Jersey is the only state with a law prohibiting driving while sleep deprived. I wonder how any law-abiding new parent in New Jersey gets to work, or buys groceries. My kids have been waking me up at all hours for the past six years. If I lived there, I’d have to surrender my license.

But maybe I should. U.S. News and World Report says there’s mounting data that suggest driving while sleepy is as bad as driving drunk.

One in six deadly car crashes is caused by a sleep deprived driver. That’s not actually quite as bad as drunk driving, which causes one of every three fatal crashes. It’s still very dangerous, though.

New Jersey’s law wouldn’t actually require me to give up my license: it only prohibits driving when you’ve been awake for more than 24 hours. I usually catch at least a cat nap. More states, including New York, Massachusetts and Illinois, are considering laws like this to prevent the worst abuses of exhausted drivers.

Clearly, these laws are aimed at commercial truckers, not tired parents. The U.S. News article opens with an all-too-familiar parenting anecdote, though. On her way to her kids’ school, the writer was rear-ended by a sleepy dad with a toddler strapped into the back seat of his own car. Luckily for everyone, there were no injuries in that fender bender.

It begs the question though: should tired parents be driving? Putting our kids in a car is one of the most dangerous things most of us do as parents.

We’d never consider knocking back a beer or two and then buckling up our kids, but I for one know I’ve driven mine to school after far too few hours of sleep.

What do you think? Should sleepy new moms and dads hang up the car keys till they get a good night’s sleep?

Photo: jahunsonin

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