Drowsy Driving Same Risk As Drunk Driving New Study Shows

Missing an Hour or Two of Sleep Doubles Crash Risk

We have all done it, even though we didn’t know it: we put other drivers lives at the same risk as if we were drunk driving. In one of the most shocking studies on auto crashes to come out in 2016, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety published a new study which shows that drivers who miss between one to two hours of the recommended minimum of seven hours of sleep in a 24-hour period nearly double their risk for a crash.

Now who hasn’t missed a few hours of sleep and then driven somewhere the next day?
Well according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 35% of U.S. drivers sleep less than the recommended minimum of seven hours a day. So more than a third of us are out on the road each day without the required amount of sleep.

According to the AAA, drowsy driving is a contributing factor in over one in five fatal crashes on U.S. roadways each year. So getting less than seven hours of sleep may have deadly consequences.

Drowsy Driving same risk as Drunk Driving
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s report, “Acute Sleep Deprivation and Risk of Motor Vehicle Crash Involvement”, determined a quadruple risk of a crash for drivers missing two to three hours of sleep in a 24-hour period compared to drivers getting the recommended seven hours of sleep. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration associates this same risk percentage as that of driving over the legal limit for alcohol.

The AAA Foundation report found that in a 24-hour period, crash risk for sleep-deprived drivers increased steadily when compared to drivers who slept the recommended seven hours or more:

Six to seven hours of sleep: 1.3 times the crash risk
Five to six hours of sleep: 1.9 times the crash risk
Four to five hours of sleep: 4.3 times the crash risk
Less than four hours of sleep: 11.5 times the crash risk.

The public viewpoint
An overwhelming 97% of drivers told the AAA Foundation in a study that they view drowsy driving as unacceptable behavior that poses a serious threat to public safety. However, one in three respondents admitted that they drove when they were so tired they had a hard time keeping their eyes open at least one time in the last 30 days.

Busy lifestyles.
We get that people’s lifestyles are busy. It seems like we can’t get any busier. But the AAA’s Jake Nelson director of traffic safety advocacy and research for AAA recommends that we strive towards keeping a healthy work-life balance and to not skip on sleep to support our lifestyles.
Drowsy Driving Symptoms

The symptoms of drowsy driving are pretty obvious: having trouble keeping eyes open, drifting from lanes, or not remembering the last few miles driven. Strangely, though, more than half of drivers involved in fatigue-related crashes experienced none of these symptoms before falling asleep behind the wheel.

As a result, the AAA is urging drivers to not rely solely on their bodies to indicate that they are too sleepy to drive. Instead, all drivers should focus on getting plenty of sleep in their daily schedules, with seven hours being the recommended amount.

Fatigue can also set in on long trips even f you have the recommended 7 hours of sleep. On those longer trips, AAA recommends that drivers also:

Travel at times when they normally awake
Schedule a break every two hours or every 100 miles
Avoid heavy foods before getting behind the wheel.
Travel with an alert passenger and take turns driving
Avoid medications that cause drowsiness or other impairment.

More details about the Study
The AAA Foundation report is based on the analysis of a representative sample of 7,234 drivers involved in 4,571 crashes. All data are from NHTSA’s National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey, which comprises a representative sample of police-reported crashes that involved at least one vehicle that was towed from the scene and resulted in emergency medical services being dispatched to the scene.

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