Drowsy driving as dangerous as drunk driving, sleep expert says

A Calgary sleep expert says driving while drowsy can be just as dangerous as driving drunk.

Sleep and Fatigue Institute director echoes Quebec coroner's call to get sleepy drivers off the road

A Calgary sleep expert says recent studies show driving drowsy and driving drunk are similarly dangerous, echoing a recent call in Quebec for legislation that would treat them the same. (Radio-Canada/SAAQ)

A Calgary sleep expert says driving while drowsy can be just as dangerous as driving drunk.

Dr. Adam Moscovitch, the medical director at the Sleep and Fatigue Institute in Calgary, says being awake for 20 hours impairs driving ability as much as having a blood alcohol level of .08.

"From the standpoint of impairment, it can be very similar,” he said.

Earlier this week a Quebec coroner called for hefty fines and penalties for people who drive while fatigued.

Coroner Quoc-Bao Do made the comments in his report after a three-year investigation into a February 2011 collision between a van and a school bus that killed five men in rural Quebec.

Moscovitch says with current technology it would be hard to enforce a new law against drowsy driving.

But he said work is being done to create what he called a "Fatigue-alyzer" that could assess how sleep-deprived people are.

But Charlie Pester, who runs POINTTS — a company that helps drivers fight traffic tickets — said he doubts any effort to police sleepy driving would stand up in court.

“I just can't see any way that it could be enforced, short of making everybody then do a log book when they're driving,” he said.