Driving drunk is dangerous, and our state legislators have rightly enacted stringent laws to punish those who engage in such reckless behavior. What is less scrutinized is drowsy driving. And yet, as a recent study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety points out, driving while tired is no different from getting behind the wheel after several drinks. In fact, you may be surprised to learn how even just an hour less of sleep in a night can affect your driving ability.
It’s an issue that warrants closer attention because while you will rarely hear people publicly brag about how wasted they were when they drove home, people actually pride themselves on being able to function on less sleep. Of course, some people don’t have much of a choice. Many folks are working two or more jobs, have new babies at home, or have other reasons why they aren’t getting the full recommended sleep time. But they – and others – need to be aware of how that affects them when they are operating heavy machinery, such as a car.
The problem is believed to be widespread. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports approximately 35 percent of people get fewer than seven hours of sleep a night, and about 12 percent say they sleep five hours or less. Seven is considered the threshold for what a healthy adult needs. Furthermore, AAA reports one in five fatal crashes involves a sleep-deprived driver. This latest study analyzed information from the National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey to ascertain how much one’s driving ability decreases based on varying amounts of sleep.
The report indicates people who slept for fewer than four hours in the last day had a crash rate that was 11.5 times higher than those who got at least seven hours of sleep. Drivers who slept for between four and five hours had a crash risk that was 4.3 percent higher. Even drivers who slept between five and seven hours had a crash risk that was between 1.3 and 1.9 percent higher.
Drivers who had two or fewer hours of sleep in the previous 24 hours, the study authors opined, are not fit to drive a motor vehicle.
To put this in context, if you got less than four hours of sleep last night, and you get behind the wheel of your vehicle, you will be taking the same risk as if you had a blood alcohol concentration of between 0.12 and 0.15 – which is nearly double the legal limit of 0.08.
What’s more, the study authors pointed out, these figures are likely gross underestimates. That’s because the data gleaned did not include auto accidents that occurred between midnight and 6 a.m. Other studies have repeatedly indicated this time frame is when a significant number of drowsy driving accidents occur. This makes sense because you have people on the road when their body’s internal clock – and all the visual signals around them – are telling them it’s time to sleep.
We see drowsy driving crashes spike especially during holiday travel, when motorists are traveling long distances, often overnight and without many breaks.
While 97 percent of drivers responded to an AAA survey indicating they believed it was unacceptable and a threat to their safety to drive while tired, almost a third openly admitted to doing just that in the previous month.
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Sleep-deprived drivers have plenty in common with drunk drivers, Dec. 6, 2016, By Ashley Halsey III, The Washington Post
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Feds: School Bus Driver in Fatal Crash Took Seizure Meds, Nov. 21, 2016, Asheville Car Accident Lawyer Blog