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Drowsy and drinking, but not drunk? Still dangerous, even deadly

It's almost impossible in this day and age to remain ignorant of the deadly dangers of drunk driving. You probably already know to stay well under the legal limits of alcohol consumption when you're planning on getting behind the wheel. Separately, you may also already be familiar with the risks of "drowsy driving" -- extreme tiredness while operating a motor vehicle can be almost as dangerous as drinking and driving.

What about when you combine the two, though? What happens when an individual is neither too tired nor too drunk to drive but just a little of both? An alarming new study indicates that this combination can be deadly, and as a responsible driver, the results may be something you'll want to keep in mind for your own safety and that of your loved ones.

Putting the theory to the test

As you probably already know, existing research has clearly established that alcohol:

  • Affects decision-making abilities and critical thinking skills
  • Impairs motor coordination
  • Can lead individuals to engage in riskier behavior than they might otherwise

Meanwhile, since studies have linked sleep deprivation to delayed reaction times and distractibility, researchers at the Institute of Cognitive and Clinical Neuroscience wanted to determine the combined effects of the two. To perform their analysis, they studied a group of healthy males between the ages of 18 and 27 by testing their responses after alcohol consumption, sleep deprivation or both. During each of four assessments, researchers:

  • Had participants rate their level of drowsiness
  • Used eye-movement measurements to test attention and focus
  • Examined response times to stimuli

So, what did researchers determine?

Study findings

Results indicated that restricting sleep to five hours per night, in combination with alcohol consumption still under the legal driving limit, yielded much higher attention deficits and drowsiness than either drinking or sleep deprivation alone. Additionally, the effects of the combination lasted for almost three hours.

What this means for you

Study findings suggest that, even if you're young and healthy -- not taking into account individuals of a more advanced age or anyone with physical or mental impairments that could negatively affect driving ability -- it's safest to take a nap or even avoid alcohol altogether before climbing behind the wheel, if you've recently suffered from sleep deprivation. Essentially, even if you no longer feel tipsy after drinking in moderation, it may still be unsafe for you to drive if you're tired.

Of course, you can only control your own decisions, not those of other drivers on Indiana roadways. If another individual carelessly injured you or a loved one in a motor vehicle accident -- whether the cause was sleep deprivation, alcohol or some other factor -- there are professional resources in the Lawrenceburg area who can support you in the fight for the compensation you need and the justice you deserve.

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