Chapter one: More than 60% of drivers take the risk
The Georgia Department of Transportation says in 2018, more than 1,500 people died on the road. Those accidents are usually caused by impaired drivers who are either distracted, drunk, or falling asleep.
Everyone knows how dangerous it is to drink and drive, but how does that compare to drowsy driving? Are sleep deprived drivers as dangerous as drunk drivers?
As a trucker, Jermaine Gaymon says he's no stranger to long hauls. "I'm in different cities daily and I'm in different states every other day," said Gaymon.
Hauling his 76,000-pound truck for hundreds of miles a day can take its toll. "Before I get tired, I'll pull over," said Gaymon.
Captain Brad Wolfe with the Bibb County Sheriff's Office says not everyone puts on the brakes. "It can make you less attentive to detail, less attentive to hazards that may present themselves, and your reaction time is slower," said Wolfe.
Captain Wolfe says the sheriff's office uses goggles to simulate what it feels like to be drunk. He says driving drowsy can have some of the same effects.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, the effects of staying awake for 18 hours are like driving with a blood alcohol level of .05, and .08 is the legal limit. Being awake for 24 hours is like a .10 blood alcohol level.
John Hutcheson with the Georgia Public Safety Training Center says it can cause drivers to cross into others, veer off the road, or crash.
Dr. John Wood at the Medical Center, Navicent Health says drowsy driving might be even more dangerous than drunk driving. "When you get to a point where you are exhausted, you are going to go to sleep and there is very little you are going to do to stop," said Wood.
So 13WMAZ verified driving drowsy is as dangerous as driving drunk. According to the The National Sleep Foundation, a lot of people take the risk. The foundation reports more than 60 percent of drivers have climbed behind the wheel feeling drowsy, and 1/3 of them admit to falling asleep.
Gaymon says he doesn't test his limits. "The most important cargo that we carry is the person in the driver's seat of the truck," said Gaymon.
The National Highway of Traffic Safety Administration estimates drowsy driving caused 72,000 crashes and 800 deaths in 2013. The administration reports those numbers are underestimated, and up to 6,000 fatal crashes may be caused by sleepy drivers.
- Dr. John Wood, Emergency Medicine Director with the Medical Center, Navicent Health
- John Hutcheson, Manager of Vehicle Operations Section at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center
- Captain Brad Wolfe with the Traffic Division of the Bibb County Sheriff's Office
- Governor's Office of Highway Safety