Study shows why drivers need to make sleep a priority

Due to the rigors of everyday life -- going to work, attending school, raising children, managing a household, etc. -- many people find themselves operating on a sleep deficit on a regular basis. In fact, even those people who don't have these types of concerns can still find themselves sacrificing sleep, perhaps staying up late to read, watch television or spend time with friends.

While most people try to offset the loss of a few hours of sleep with an extra cup of coffee or two, the reality is that most will end up going through the day feeling altogether drowsy. As rough as this can be, it can also prove to be incredibly dangerous should they make the decision to get behind the wheel.

According to a recently released report by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, those drivers who sleep less than the seven hours per day recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention see their risk of being involved in an accident increase accordingly:

  • 1.3 times for getting between six to seven hours of sleep
  • 1.9 times for getting between five to six hours of sleep
  • 4.3 times for getting between four to five hours of sleep
  • 11.5 times for getting less than four hours of sleep

To put this in perspective, consider that the elevated crash risk that accompanies getting only two to three hours less sleep in a 24-hour period is the exact same as that assigned by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to those who drive under the influence of alcohol.

“You cannot miss sleep and still expect to be able to safely function behind the wheel,” said one senior official involved with the study. "Our new research shows that a driver who has slept for less than five hours has a crash risk comparable to someone driving drunk.”

It is worth noting that the AAA researchers also found that less than 50 percent of drivers involved in accidents later attributed to fatigue showed symptoms such as drooping eyelids, lane drifting or memory trouble before crashing.

Given this reality, they urge drivers to focus less on relying on their bodies to notify them when they're driving drowsy and more on making sleep a priority, getting at least seven hours per night whenever possible.

Here's hoping this study proves eye opening to those who make a habit of driving drowsy …

If you've been seriously injured in a motor vehicle accident caused by the negligent actions of another, please consider speaking with a skilled legal professional to learn more about your rights and your options for pursuing justice.

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