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Alcohol and a lack of sleep are a dangerous combination

Drunk driving laws are intended to deter people from having too much to drink and getting behind the wheel. DUI laws allow for the prosecution of people who drive while impaired by alcohol. The level of impairment is generally tied to a specific blood alcohol content (BAC) when it comes to who gets prosecuted for DUI. One of the problems with setting a particular level is that it might blind people to the danger of lower levels of alcohol consumption when it comes to avoiding car accidents.

A group of researchers recently tested the impact of alcohol consumption on driving ability at levels lower than .08 BAC. Specifically, the study looked at the impact of alcohol on young men who were suffering from various levels of sleep deprivation. The study suggests that drivers who are short on sleep should be wary about consuming even small amounts of alcohol before driving.

Driving skills erode

Sleep deprivation and alcohol consumption bot contribute to the dulling of skills necessary for safe driving. It is harder to focus your attention when you are tired or drunk. Your reactions slow. Your decision-making ability degrades. Being tired or being drunk makes it hard, if not impossible to drive safely.

While either condition is dangerous alone, the combination may be worse. Part of the problem is that most people have an idea about what constitutes a safe quantity of alcohol. Two beers or a glass of wine might not seem like a dangerous amount, but when added to fatigue, they can make a driver more dangerous than drinking to the legal limit on a full night's sleep.

Source: Reuters, "Alcohol may impair tired drivers even if they aren't drunk," by Lisa Rapaport, 18 August 2017

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