Thursday, January 14, 2010

Sleep deprivation mimics effects of intoxication

According to studies by the National Sleep Foundation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the symptoms of driving while drowsy mimic those of driving while intoxicated.

Sleepiness can have the following effects:
  • Impaired judgment
  • Impaired reaction time
  • Impaired vision
  • Problems with information processing
  • Short term memory loss
  • Decreased vigilance
The Texas Breath Alcohol Testing Program Operator Manual lists the following effects of alcohol on drivers:
  • Impaired judgment
  • Impaired psychomotor skills
  • Depressed vision
  • Problems with information processing
According to a NHTSA survey conducted in 2002, 37% of all drivers have nodded off or fallen asleep at least once while driving. In combating drowsiness behind the wheel:
  • 26% of drivers opened a window;
  • 17% of drivers drank a caffeinated beverage;
  • 15% of drivers pulled off the road; and
  • 14% of drivers cranked up the radio.
In the 1990's NHTSA found that there were approximately 56,000 accidents a year attributed to drowsy driving. In a 2008 national survey, the National Sleep Foundation found that only New Jersey made it a crime specifically to fall asleep behind the wheel.

The problem in using drowsy driving as a defense to a drunk driving charge, however, comes about when alcohol is involved because by admitting that your client was impaired, you might just make it easier for the prosecutor to make her case.

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