|Comedian Tracy Morgan in 2009, |
photo by David Shankbone.
Morgan's limousine bus was struck from behind by a truck whose driver allegedly failed to notice the slowed traffic in front of him. Investigations into the accident suggest he may not having slept at all for more than 24 hours prior to the time of the accident. The truck driver has been charged with death by auto and four counts of assault by auto and his bail was set at $50,000.
How does drowsy driving happen? It's simple. If you don't get enough sleep every night, you generate a "debt of lost sleep" over time which can lead to cumulative cognitive problems that can be compared to the same kinds of impairments affecting people who are legally drunk. Ironically, driving drowsy, in New Jersey, is considered a crime comparable to drunk driving.
Drowsy driving can happen to anybody... including you. People who are at higher risk for drowsy driving include teenagers, new parents, the elderly... anybody who doesn't get their full night's rest, night after night.
If you have a relatively normal sleep schedule, you can suffer from sleep deprivation (aka insufficient sleep) by simply not getting solid sleep at night. This can increase the likelihood that you will drive drowsy.
However, if you have an unusual work or life schedule, in which you find it difficult to find and stay in a reliable sleep pattern, such as what can happen with 9-1-1 dispatchers, long-haul truck drivers and nurses on rotation, your risks for sleep deprivation increase dramatically.
You might then be able to sneak in added sleep via naps or earlier bed times or later rise times in order to recuperate your lost sleep. By doing so, you can avoid the very serious consequence of drowsy driving as described here, as well as other long-term cognitive problems that can arise from chronic sleep deprivation.