Drivers on closed course illustrate dangers of drowsy driving

Posted at 6:24 PM, Aug 07, 2013
and last updated 2013-08-08 00:25:20-04

SALT LAKE CITY – Drowsy driving is one of the leading causes of death on Utah roadways, and on Wednesday FOX 13 News’ Ben Winslow joined other drivers for a demonstration of the dangers of drowsy driving.

Eight people have died in Utah so far this year due to suspected drowsy driving.

Tania Mashburn of the Utah Department of Transportation said being sleepy can hinder someone as much as alcohol does.

She said someone who has gone without sleep for 20 hours is just as dangerous as someone with a blood alcohol content of .08 percent, which is the legal limit for driving in Utah.

“Driving drowsy is just as dangerous as driving drunk,” Mashburn said.

Winslow joined several other drivers who volunteered to stay awake for more than 24 hours before trying their driving skills on a closed course. The drivers tried routine moves like pulling out of a driveway, making a simple turns and avoiding hazards.

The lack of sleep delayed drivers’ reactions as well as their judgment. Driver Lindsey Tait was shocked by how much of an impact being sleepy had on her driving.

“I didn't realize how many cones I knocked down until you go around and see,” she said. “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh! If I was on the road, I don't know how many cars I would have hit,  people are out there.’ It's crazy to think about.”

Driver Nate Davis said he felt sluggish as he drove.

"It felt like I was double guessing, you had to think about things twice to decipher the cones and where we were going, so definitely a slower response," he said.

Watch the video above to see how the drowsy drivers handled things behind the wheel.