A Wake-Up Call to End Drowsy Driving

04/05/2016 09:02 am ET | Updated Apr 05, 2016

We all know it's dangerous to get behind the wheel when we've been drinking -- but what about when we're tired? Over 60 percent of Americans admit they've driven while drowsy at least once in the past year. Yet sleep deprivation impairs our judgment just as much as alcohol -- and is just as likely to result in a fatal crash.

It's no accident that drunk driving deaths fell by half between 1982 to 2014. This turnaround happened because there was a concerted effort by government, nonprofits and safety experts to change attitudes towards drinking and driving. That campaign led everyone to take the problem more seriously than ever before.

But while the dangers of drunk driving are now well known, drowsy driving is still a silent epidemic. Research suggests that tired drivers are responsible for as many as 1.2 million crashes a year which tragically kill 8,000 people. Those numbers are sobering, but hardly surprising given that one study found that being awake for 17 to 19 hours (a normal day for many of us!) causes cognitive impairment equal to having a blood alcohol level of .05 percent (just under the legal limit in many US states). Stay up just a few hours more, and it's equivalent to 0.1 percent -- legally drunk.

It doesn't have to be this way. We just need to wake up to the fact that drowsy driving is dangerous. It's why The Huffington Post is teaming up with Uber and Toyota to raise awareness of the issue and help save lives. We know that this can work because we've seen what ridesharing can do for drunk driving. When Uber launched in Seattle, DUI arrests fell by 10 percent -- and in California drunk driving crashes fell by 60 per month among drivers under 30.

If you're an employer, follow the example of companies that use Uber for Business to get their employees home safely after a late night in the office. For everyone else -- don't let your loved ones get behind the wheel when they are tired. Pull out a smartphone and call them a ride.

Whether or not you've fallen asleep at the wheel, most people have experienced exhaustion at one time or another. As CEOs, both of us have had our share of sleepless nights -- even weeks or months. And we still do. But like a growing number of doctors, psychologists and business people, we've come to understand that sleep is a critical part of personal health, happiness, success and when it comes to driving, safety.

Over the next month, Arianna will be carrying that message to college campuses in Denver, Las Vegas, Nashville, Chicago, the Bay Area and throughout the country. If you're interested in a sleep tutorial, order a ride with Uber and you could win a chance to have Arianna ride along with you.

Toyota is committed to helping everyone be safe behind the wheel and will be providing thousands of free late-night rides for students as part of this anti-drowsy driving campaign. And at Uber, we are building technology that uses GPS and accelerometer data from phones to help detect dangerous driving patterns -- and get those drivers off the road.

Join us in making drowsy driving a thing of the past -- as socially unacceptable as drunk driving is today. We'll let Dr. Mark Rosekind, Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, have the last word: "Not everyone drinks and drives or texts while driving. But everyone gets tired, and far too often drivers are putting themselves and others at risk by getting behind the wheel without the sleep they need."