Is Sleep Deprivation Really That Bad?

Ever succumb to the desire to just put your screaming baby into the car and take her for a long, soothing drive? The more tired you get, the more tempting it is to let the car seat lull your fussy little one to sleep.

Try that in New Jersey and you'd be breaking the law.

That's because New Jersey is the only state with a law prohibiting driving while sleep deprived. I wonder how any law-abiding new parent in New Jersey gets to work, or buys groceries. My kids have been waking me up at all hours for the past six years. If I lived there, I'd have to surrender my license.

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But maybe I should. U.S. News and World Report says there's mounting data that suggest driving while sleepy is as bad as driving drunk.

One in six deadly car crashes is caused by a sleep deprived driver. That's not actually quite as bad as drunk driving, which causes one of every three fatal crashes. It's still very dangerous, though.

New Jersey's law wouldn't actually require me to give up my license: it only prohibits driving when you've been awake for more than 24 hours. I usually catch at least a cat nap. More states, including New York, Massachusetts and Illinois, are considering laws like this to prevent the worst abuses of exhausted drivers.

More on Babble: Chill out! Your kids know you're stressed.

Clearly, these laws are aimed at commercial truckers, not tired parents. But they do beg the question: should tired parents be driving?

Staying awake for 24 hours is pretty extreme, but the effects of sleep deprivation can occur when you've had just less than 7 hours of sleep. It's not only dangerous when driving a car, but it also weakens your body's ability perform some of its necessary functions. Visit Babble's Strollerderby to find out how sleep deprivation changes your body's ability to perform.


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