Harris Blackwood, director of the Governor's Office of Highway Safety, is urging Georgia drivers to give themselves a gift this holiday season.
Blackwood says, "The best Christmas gift you could give yourself is being alive for the New Year," WTOC 11 reports.
"A Drowsy Driver is Just as Dangerous as a Drunk Driver"
WTOC 11 also reports that AAA is predicting 3 million Georgia drivers will be hitting the road this holiday season. More traffic, combined with an increased number of events that serve alcohol, usually leads to a spike in car accidents and injuries this time of year.
Blackwood is urging Georgia drivers to stay awake and alert on the crowded roads this holiday season: "Don't try to drive a couple of extra hours to get to somebody's home...Make sure you're well rested. A drowsy driver is just as dangerous as a drunk driver."
A study comparing the relative effects of sleep deprivation and alcohol bears out Blackwood's statement on the potential dangers of drowsiness. In the study, volunteers were given a series of cognitive, reaction time, and coordination tests after staying awake for long periods or consuming measured amounts of alcohol.
The study found that going 17-19 hours without sleep resulted in performance on various tests that was equivalent to or worse than someone with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .05%. Response speeds and accuracy were particularly degraded after that amount of time without sleep. After longer periods of time without sleeping, the sleep test subjects' performance was equivalent to that of those with a BAC of .1% (higher than the legal limit in Georgia and every other state nation-wide).
To avoid driving while dangerously fatigued, Blackwood urges Georgia drivers to avoid pulling an all-nighter to reach their destinations. Instead, drivers should plan to leave early and try to share the driving duties. The Governor's Office of Highway Safety also urges drivers to stay sober, wear their seatbelts, and avoid distractions--such as using the phone--while driving.
Expect Increased Traffic Enforcement in Georgia Through the New Year
To help ensure that drivers are sober, alert and wearing their seat belts, law enforcement agencies across the state will be out in force through January 2.
The Daily Tribune News notes that there were 392 car accidents, injuring 208 people last Christmas. The New Year's holiday travel period saw 595 accidents and 289 injuries last year. Georgia State Patrol Cpl. Michael Hall told the Daily Tribune News that: "…troopers will be particularly watching for impaired drivers, speeders, people who aren't wearing seatbelts and aggressive drivers" this holiday season.
Following law enforcement officials' advice can help keep you and your fellow drivers safe during your holiday travels. It can also help you avoid potentially severe legal consequences.
A first-time DUI in Georgia is usually a misdemeanor, and even the minimum penalties can include jail time and suspension of your driver's license. Aggressive driving is a "high and aggravated" misdemeanor in Georgia, with penalties of up to 12 months in jail and a $5,000 fine. If aggressive driving or drug or alcohol impairment leads to an accident or injuries, the penalties are likely to be even more severe.
We hope you and your loved ones give yourselves the gift of safe driving, wherever you may travel this holiday season.