The average driver is aware of many factors that make it more difficult to drive safely. We know that drinking alcohol or taking drugs—even prescription drugs—can impair the ability to drive. We know that speeding and driving recklessly increase the chances of a crash. However, many people are unaware of the dangers of driving when they are sleepy. Studies show that a driver needs to have had enough sleep in order to be fully functional behind the wheel.
Why Are Sleep-Deprived Drivers So Dangerous?
When a person doesn’t get adequate sleep, his judgment, reaction time, and attention span are compromised. According to a study by AAA, experts recommend that an adult should sleep for seven hours or more every night. In fact, the National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to nine hours of sleep for healthy adults between the ages of 18-64.
When a driver doesn’t get this amount of sleep, it can increase his or her crash rate. Past information from AAA has revealed that seven percent of all crashes involve driver drowsiness, and it is estimated that fatigue contributes to 13 percent of collisions that results in injuries and hospital admissions and 21 percent of all deadly crashes in this nation.
What the New Statistics Say About Driving Drowsy
Alarmingly, not getting enough sleep can double a person’s crash risk, according to AAA. The report reveals that one in five fatal collisions now involve drowsy driving. And what’s surprising to learn is that even missing one hour of sleep can impair a driver’s ability to drive safely. The study’s findings disclose the following:
- Drivers who slept fewer than 4 hours were 11.5 times more likely to crash than drivers who slept for 7 hours or more in the past 24 hours.
- Drivers who slept for 4-5 hours were 4.3 times more likely to crash than drivers who slept for 7 hours or more in the past 24 hours. Interestingly, drivers who reported that they usually sleep for 4-5 hours every day had a 5.4 times higher crash rate than those who regularly sleep for 7 hours or more.
- Drivers who slept 5-6 hours were 1.9 times more likely to crash than drivers who slept for 7 hours or more in the past 24 hours.
- Drivers who slept 6-7 hours were 1.3 times more likely to crash than drivers who slept for 7 hours or more in the past 24 hours.
- Getting less than 5 hours of sleep can cause a driver to crash just as frequently as a drunk driver, and driving with fewer than 4 hours of sleep actually increases one’s crash risk more than driving at or a little bit above the legal limit for alcohol.
The elevated crash rates that are associated with sleep deprivation are alarming to say the least. And what’s shocking is that an estimated 35 percent of adults in this nation get less than seven hours of sleep and 12 percent get fewer than five hours of sleep daily, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These numbers could indicate that there are more drowsy drivers on the roads than most people realize.
What Can Be Done to Stop Drowsy Driving?
While many people try to power though fatigue by drinking coffee or some type of caffeinated beverage, turning up their music, or rolling down the windows, study after study continues to reveal just how dangerous sleep-deprived drivers can be to themselves and to others on the road. For this reason, drivers and even passengers should learn about the signs of drowsy driving in order to know when it is time to pull over and rest. Some of the tale-tell signs include yawning, difficulty keeping your eyes open, not remembering the last several miles, and drifting from lanes.
In order to minimize falling asleep at the wheel, it is critical to get seven or more hours of sleep a night. Please help us promote this message by sharing this article on Facebook so that more people will realize what missing a few hours of sleep a night can do to their safety and the safety of others on the road.