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In a new study, more than four percent of adults admitted to having fallen asleep at the wheel in the past 30 days. If this isn’t scary enough, the researchers who conducted the study said they believed the actual number was several times higher than this, since people who doze off at the wheel might do so for only a few seconds and not remember it afterward.

Drowsy driving has a widespread impact on the nation’s highways, experts say. In 2009, an estimated 730 deadly motor vehicle accidents involved a driver who was either sleepy or dozing off, and an additional 30,000 crashes that were nonfatal involved a drowsy driver. Accidents involving sleepy drivers are more likely to be deadly or cause injuries, in part because people who fall asleep at the wheel either fail to hit their brakes or veer off the road before crashing. –

A lot of people think that when they’re overtired they can just “shake it off” and still drive safely, even for long distances. But even if you don’t actually fall asleep, being overtired can affect your judgment and reaction times as much as drinking alcohol. Studies have shown that driving after not sleeping for 20 hours straight is equivalent to driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.08, the legal limit in most states. After 24 hours, this devolves to a blood alcohol level equivalent to 1.0, which is over the legal limit! A 180-pound person would have to drink about seven beers over the course of two hours to have a blood alcohol level of 1.0.

While most of us wouldn’t dream of getting behind the wheel right after downing more than a sixpack in two hours, too many of us don’t hesitate to drive while overtired—whether after a long shift, after being up all night with sick kids, or something else. Please, if you find yourself nodding off at the wheel, find a safe place to stop and take a quick nap. It can mean the different between life and death, for you as well as others on the road with you.

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