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Brain research verifies drowsiness increases crash risks

Research continuously uncovers more about the way that the brain works. In the case of drowsy driving, one study has produced medical evidence of what studies and statistics already show. For drivers in Washington, understanding these facts may prevent motor vehicle accidents.

According to NPR, doctors studying the brains of people with epilepsy discovered that specific neurons perform poorly after a night of wakefulness. Electrical signals from the regions of the brain that involve perception and the processing of external stimuli functioned significantly slower than they did after a night of sleep.

Data gathered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention backs these findings, indicating that drowsy driving could be causing as many as 6,000 deadly car accidents each year. A driver who is sleepy or fatigued does not have the ability to pay full attention to the road. Once a hazard is recognized, a drowsy driver cannot react as quickly as one who is alert. Judgment is also impaired, so making good decisions becomes difficult.

Often, people who are drowsy or fatigued may yawn excessively or have a hard time keeping their eyes open. However, without one of these physical signs of sleepiness, a driver may not necessarily know that he or she is impaired by the condition. Warning signs that indicate it is time to change drivers include the following:

  • The car may drift into the next lane or hit a rumble strip
  • The last few miles may be a blur
  • The driver may miss an exit or turn

In one survey, 4 percent of the participants self-reported that they had fallen asleep behind the wheel one or more times in the previous month. Participants who indicated they sleep no more than six hours per day and those who snore were among those most likely to be included in that 4 percent.