We all know that driving drunk is extremely dangerous. In 2013, drunk driving accounted for 10,076 traffic deaths – 31 percent of the total. National safety campaigns have rightly portrayed drunk driving as irresponsible and deadly. But less common knowledge claims that two other common activities are just as dangerous – or even more dangerous – as getting behind the wheel drunk: driving while fatigued and driving while texting.
Recently, the Discovery Channel’s “Mythbusters” put the fatigue claims to the test, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released truly alarming statistics on the consequences of texting.
Many people are unaware that driving while fatigued, or drowsy driving, can be as fatal as drunk driving. When drivers are sleepy, their judgment and reaction time are significantly impaired, and the danger of falling asleep at the wheel means that crashes are more likely. According to the National Sleep Foundation, staying awake for just 18 hours is the equivalent of a blood alcohol content of .08, and having six hours of sleep or less triples your risk of an accident.
When “Mythbusters” put drowsy driving to the test, Kari Byron and Tory Belleci took the same driving tests three times: once sober and with plenty of sleep, once after two drinks, and once after staying up for 30 hours straight. They confirmed the National Sleep Foundation’s statement: lack of sleep had more serious effects than their drinking did.
Texting while driving may be even more dangerous. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), driving and texting is six times more dangerous than drunk driving, and texting drivers are 23 times more likely to get in an accident than non-texting drivers.
According to the NHTSA, sending or receiving a text takes 4.6 seconds on average. Taking one’s eyes off the road for that long is the equivalent of driving the length of a football field while wearing a blindfold. Texting while driving is now the leading cause of deaths and serious accidents for teenage drivers – replacing drunk driving for that dubiously prestigious position.