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Sleepy? Listen to your body before you get behind the wheel.

Everyone knows you shouldn’t get behind the wheel after drinking. And we’ve discussed in previous posts the growing safety issue of texting while driving. However, a third type of driving behavior—which is less commonly discussed, but which pose real risks—is fatigued driving.

You’ve probably done it before. Maybe you stayed up all night cramming for your history final. You show up to class the next day exhausted—but the rush of adrenaline keeps you going through the exam, and you end up getting an A. Perhaps your good grade was worth the trade-off of a night of sleep deprivation. However, the decision to drive yourself to class is one you should have reservations about.

Lack of sleep reduces reaction time—and when you’re barreling down the freeway at 60 miles an hour, that delay can be the difference between life and death. A recent study shows that your level of impairment after going without sleep for just 17 hours is on par with having a blood alcohol concentration of 0.05 percent. With increased sleep deprivation, that effect can become as severe as being legally drunk.

As with drunk driving, the safety risks of fatigued driving don’t just affect you; everyone on the road is at risk. In 2014, comedian Tracy Morgan was hit by a truck driver who had not slept for 24 hours. Morgan suffered traumatic brain injury, and his friend—comedian James McNair—was tragically killed. The driver in this case faced criminal charges for drowsy driving.

The feeling of fatigue is something we don’t tend to give enough importance to when we get behind the wheel. Nonetheless, driving without sufficient sleep can lead to disaster. If you need to be somewhere after a sleepless night, it’s worth it to yourself and others to get a ride.

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