Explanation: A recent study conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that drowsy drivers are responsible for one in six — or 17 percent - of fatal car accidents. But is getting behind the wheel without shut-eye more dangerous than driving after a couple of drinks? MythBusters Tory Belleci and Kari Byron stayed up for 30 straight hours to find out.
Before judging how well they drove tipsy versus tired, Tory and Kari first took driving tests on two different courses while they were sober and well-rested to establish an experimental baseline. The first course was meant to mimic city traffic, with snaking turns, stoplights and parallel parking. The second, more monotonous course involved making 25 laps around a track to evaluate the drivers' attention spans.
Although both situations - downing a couple of shots and staying up all night - clearly impaired Tory and Kari's driving skills, causing them to make mistakes and veer out of their lanes, the lack of sleep had more dangerous effects. Compared with cruising around while tipsy, sleep deprivation caused Tory to drive 10 times worse; sleepy Kari's driving was three times more erratic.
Although getting behind the wheel while groggy isn't illegal, the confirmed myth is a wake-up call that driving tired equals driving impaired.