It is a well-known fact that drivers under the influence of alcohol have problems with reaction time, accuracy in response, and lapses in attention while behind the wheel. A new study by AAA shows the same can be said for drivers who have not had enough sleep. In fact, the less sleep a person has on any given night, the greater the chance that a person will be involved in a motor vehicle accident.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that more than one-third of adults in the U.S. sleep less than seven hours a night when the recommended amount of sleep is seven to nine hours. The AAA study connects this lack of sleep with the risk of having a car accident. Individuals with less than seven hours of sleep in a 24-hour period or those who have slept an hour or less than they usually do are at a considerably greater risk. The comparison with drivers who had seven hours of sleep show:
- Drivers with 5-6 hours of sleep are nearly double the crash rate.
- Drivers with 4-5 hours of sleep are more than four times the crash rate.
- Drivers with less than 4 hours of sleep are more than 11 times the crash rate.
- Drivers with 2-3 less hours of their normal sleep are three times the crash rate.
- Drivers with more than 4 hours of their normal sleep are more than 10 times the crash rate.
These statistics may give us a better understanding as to why one in five fatal crashes include a drowsy driver. The National Sleep Foundation warns that anyone who has slept for less than two hours in a 24-hour period is not fit to get behind the wheel. In addition, AAA concluded individuals who slept less than four to five hours are significantly impaired and are just as much at risk for being involved in an accident as a drunk driver with a blood alcohol content of anywhere from 0.08 to 0.15. It should be noted that the study only included drivers on the road from 6am to midnight, so results would be much higher if it included those on the road during overnight hours.
The CDC claims that insufficient sleep has become a serious “public health problem,” and the executive director for AAA’s Foundation for Traffic Safety adds, “You cannot miss sleep and still expect to be able to function safely behind the wheel.” To avoid drowsy driving, AAA recommends that aside from drivers getting the recommended amount of sleep, that they avoid heavy foods and large meals before taking the wheel, taking a break every two hours when traveling long distances, and having an alert passenger in the car who can also take over the driving responsibilities if needed. Pullover immediately if you are having trouble keeping your eyes open, are swerving in and out of lanes, and cannot recall the last few miles driven.
It is time to take drowsy driving seriously. We now know danger does not only come from the more talked-about issues of drunk driving, distracted driving and driving while using a cell phone. If you or someone you love has been injured in an accident due to the actions of a drowsy driver, you have rights. Please contact the knowledgeable and experienced attorneys at Finz & Finz, P.C., today.