Drowsy driving and drunk driving are hazardous behaviors that can impair your judgment, awareness, and reaction time. Although drowsy driving and drunk driving are two different things, both types of driving can have fatal results, but which is worse?

What Is Drowsy Driving?

Drowsy driving occurs when an individual operates a motor vehicle while excessively sleepy. There is no age limit for being sleepy behind the wheel. Fatigue can affect any driver of any age. Driving when you’re drowsy increases the risk of auto accidents and can lead to injuries, and sometimes have fatal results.

What Are the Causes of Drowsy Driving?

A lack of sleep causes drowsy driving. In most scenarios, drowsy driving doesn’t result in criminal charges but can lead to civil penalties in some instances.

What Is Drunk Driving?

Drunk driving is the act of operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) that exceeds 0.08%. Also referred to as DUI (driving under the influence), driving drunk is a criminal offense. Even if your BAC is not above the legal limit, you could still be charged with a drunk driving offense.

What Are the Causes of Drunk Driving?

There are many different causes of drunk driving, such as a false sense of security, embarrassment, and the speed and rate at which someone is drinking. The type of alcohol that is consumed and a person’s age, sex, body weight, and previous food intake are also contributing factors to how quickly someone becomes impaired due to alcohol consumption.

What’s the Difference Between Drowsy Driving and Drunk Driving?

A lack of sleep causes drowsy driving while drunk driving is caused by alcohol consumption. Unlike alcohol where a breathalyzer is used to determine if a person is drunk, there isn’t a reliable test that can determine if a person is drowsy. However, operating a motor vehicle on little to no sleep (approximately 4 hours or less) can have the same risks as operating a motor vehicle with a .08 blood alcohol level.

The primary difference between drunk driving and drowsy driving is that drunk driving is a criminal offense that can lead to different consequences, such as penalties, fines, license suspension, and other civil and criminal penalties under some circumstances. However, whether you’re drowsy driving or drunk driving, the results are the same, so one is not better or worse than the other.

Why Do People Drive When They Are Drowsy?

People who are drowsy when they are driving are often traveling alone or have sleeping passengers. Many drivers don’t realize they’re drowsy before dozing off. Drowsy drivers are usually more awake after an auto accident or making another mistake, such as drifting into another traffic lane. Why? When you doze off, your body gives you an adrenaline rush that jolts you awake. There are also other reasons a person may drive when they’re drowsy.

Lack of Awareness

A lot of drivers don’t realize they’re fatigued or drowsy until they doze off. Because of the adrenaline rush we previously mentioned, they’ll jolt awake, similar to feeling like you’re jumping out of your sleep.

Traveling Alone

Many drivers travel alone, and regardless of the distance they’re traveling, it may not take much for them to doze off, especially if they’re tired. A lot of things can cause people to be tired, such as their work-life balance, their lifestyle, and other instances.

Even if drivers are on a fun-filled road trip, it’s easy to fall asleep, especially if you’re the driver, and all the passengers have fallen asleep. Without continuous engagement with passengers, such as conversation, it’s easy to become drowsy while driving.

Underestimating the Risks

Some drivers underestimate the risks associated with drowsy driving. Although drowsy driving can have the same fatal results as drunk driving, most drivers think they can “push” through their drowsiness or keep the window down so the air will keep them awake.

Pressure to Continue Driving

For some drivers, their career can push them to meet deadlines, such as a trucker. If you’re pushing yourself to meet a destination at a specific time, you likely won’t get much sleep until after you’ve reached your destination.

In a different scenario, maybe you’re trying to make it to the hotel because you made reservations, and want to make it there by check-in time. In this instance, you may feel anxious because you are rushing, so you’re not thinking about taking any breaks to rest or stretch your legs.

Sleep Disorders

If you have a sleep disorder, such as obstructive sleep apnea, or any other type of sleep disorder, you may have difficulty staying away while you’re driving. Some people can have sleep disorders and not know it. A lot of sleep disorders can lead to daytime drowsiness.

Alcohol Consumption

Consuming alcohol can cause sleepiness and impair a driver’s reaction time and decision-making. These factors can increase the risk of an accident that could have fatal results.

Remember that drowsy driving dramatically increases the risk of auto accidents because your reaction time and judgment are impaired. Even if you don’t fall asleep while driving, sleep deprivation impairs your mental functions which has the same effect as drunkenness.

Why Do People Drive When They Are Drunk?

People decide to drive when they are drunk for different reasons, some of which can include the following:

  • Peer pressure
  • Liquid courage (feeling invincible while intoxicated)
  • Not being aware of the potential consequences of their actions
  • Using alcohol as a coping mechanism for stress or other issues
  • Lack of planning or resources
  • An individual’s location or upbringing
  • They don’t live far from their destination
  • Not having another form of transportation from or to their destination

Transportation Factors That Can Influence Drunk Driving

Transportation is a significant factor that influences drunk driving. The problem is getting from point A to point B. Many urban areas have rideshare options, such as taxis, trains, and buses. However, people who do not live in rural areas often don’t have these transportation options.

For instance, Montana has the highest percentage of rural residents. This state’s average of young adults killed in alcohol-related crashes is 3 times the national average. A small study was conducted where 72 young adults were interviewed. This study revealed the reasons for drinking and driving were due to a lack of transportation options. Some young adult residents in Montana also stated that asking someone for a ride was unreasonable because they often live far from one another.

Cultural Factors That Can Influence Drinking and Driving

The study that was conducted involving young adults in Montana also revealed how the culture of drinking in a person’s family can play a significant role in a person’s decision to drink and operate a motor vehicle. Young adults are just as impressionable as toddlers. Seeing your parents and older relatives repeatedly drink and drive with little to no consequences will make them want to do the same.

Misconceptions That Can Lead to Drunk Driving

There are different myths about drunk driving that make people believe that drunk driving isn’t as bad as it is and that they will be okay if they choose to drink and drive. For instance, you may have heard that drinking coffee, water, or a sports drink can help make you less drunk, or eating a certain food will make you less drunk. These are myths! Although doing these things can make you feel less drunk, they will not help with sobering up. Only time can help you sober up by lowering your BAC.

Another myth about drinking is the one-drink-per-hour rule. In general, alcohol leaves your body at a rate of 0.015 g/100mL/ per hour, which is where this myth originated. Even if you choose to follow the one-drink-per-hour rule, you could still have a BAC over the legal limit! How? The alcohol metabolism rate can vary depending on the person, and different factors are included in the scenario. Did you know that many auto accidents occur when the driver has a BAC that is below the legal limit?

How to Remain Alert While Driving

Remaining alert while driving can be difficult for many drivers, especially if you’re already tired or driving makes you sleepy. However, before we start listing ways to remain alert while operating a motor vehicle, for the record, if you are sleepy or fatigued, even if you feel like you’re only a little sleepy, do not operate a motor vehicle!

To help you stay alert while driving, you can try the following tips:

  • Get an adequate amount of sleep (at least 7 hours each day)
  • Travel during times when you are normally awake
  • Remain aware of your surroundings by moving your eyes approximately every 2 seconds
  • If you’re on a road trip, you should take a break from driving every 2 hours
  • Use commentary driving techniques (speaking aloud while driving)
  • Stay hydrated
  • Don’t eat heavy meals before driving
  • Travel with a passenger who can stay alert and take turns driving

Signs You Are Gettig Drowsy

Your body will give you different signs that you need rest, such as the following:

  • Difficulty staying alert
  • Feeling overly irritated
  • Trouble with your memory
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Feeling drowsy to the point it interferes with your basic functions
  • Having trouble making decisions
  • Trouble retaining new concepts

Signs You Are Drunk and Should Not Drive

A lot of drivers don’t realize they are too drunk to drive, so we created a list of signs you should look for to let you know that you’re drunk:

  • Feeling overly relaxed
  • Doing or saying things you wouldn’t otherwise say (lower inhibitions)
  • Warm sensations
  • Lowering of caution (steps that are taken to prevent dangers or mistakes)
  • Loss of fine motor coordination
  • Inability to complete complex tasks
  • Lowered reasoning ability
  • Slurred speech
  • Loud or fast speech
  • Decreased reasoning ability

What Are the Stages of Being Drunk?

The effects and symptoms of being drunk are different for everyone and are based on different factors, such as age, weight, sex, and rate of alcohol consumption. However, there are common signs that are associated with alcohol intoxication that you should look out for.

1.    Sobriety

During the sobriety stage, an individual’s BAC is below 0.06. At this stage, an individual may not notice any drastic changes in their mood or behavior. Some people may feel sleepy or more relaxed than usual, but their reflexes and coordination start to decline.

2.    Euphoria

In the euphoria stage, individuals have a BAC between 0.07 and 0.09. At this stage, it’s not uncommon for individuals to feel relaxed and talkative. In most states in the U.S., having a BAC between 0.07 and 0.09 means a person is legally drunk and is not able to safely operate a motor vehicle.

3.    Excitement

The excitement stage is when many individuals begin to slur their words and speech. During this time, individuals can also become more impulsive, which can mean being loud and obnoxious.

4.    Confusion

During the confusion stage, a person’s BAC will continue to rise and confusion will set in. This is the time when a person’s judgment will be seriously impaired and their decision-making abilities will decline.

5.    Stupor

In the stupor stage, individuals may be barely conscious. They may experience difficulty standing, walking, and talking. People in this stage will have severely impaired motor skills.

6.    Coma

In severely extreme situations, alcohol intoxication can lead to a coma. A person’s breathing may slow down and the person could be unresponsive, which requires immediate medical attention.

What Are the Signs That a Person May Be Intoxicated?

Someone who is intoxicated may exhibit the following signs:

  • Breath smells like alcohol
  • Experiencing seizures or blackouts
  • Loss of memory
  • Enlarged pupils or quick eye movements
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Taking slow breaths
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Slurred or loud speech
  • Drastic changes in mood

What Are the Common Symptoms of a Hangover?

A hangover occurs after you drink. Individuals who have previously been drinking or have been drunk will likely experience different unpleasant physiological and psychological effects. Common symptoms of a hangover can include the following:

  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Sensitivity to sound and light
  • Thirst and dry mouth
  • Muscle aches
  • Dizziness

Everyone’s alcohol tolerance varies based on a variety of factors, including past drinking history. Drinking responsibly and knowing your limits can help prevent drunk driving and harming yourself and other drivers and passengers on the road. Don’t drink and drive, even if you’ve only had 1 or 2 drinks. Always play it safe!