Fatigue exacerbates effects of alcohol in drivers

A recent report issued by Reuters Health shows that sleep deprivation can cause people with even relatively modest amounts of alcohol in their systems to show many of the classic poor decisions and unsafe driving habits typically seen in intoxicated drivers.

The small study, performed at Monash University’s Institute of Cognitive and Clinical Neuroscience in Australia, showed that the combination of both sleep deprivation and alcohol consumption had the biggest impact overall on the participant’s ability to function.

Specifically, it led to the highest rate of:

  • Motor coordination impact
  • Slowed reaction times
  • Poor critical thinking skills
  • Risky decision-making
  • Distraction

Subjects were tested while rested, while under the influence of alcohol, while fatigued and a final time when both sleep-deprived and having consumed alcohol. An important note: the study participants were legally intoxicated per Australian standards at the time of the testing, meaning that they had a blood alcohol content of .05, not the .08 required for legal intoxication here in Tennessee and across America.

This study is not earth-shattering, particularly given its small sample size and the fact that only young, healthy, men were included, but the results are informative nonetheless. Driving, even if you are feeling just slightly “buzzed” from alcohol and you’re tired could lead to serious accidents, injuries, or arrest.

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