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.