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Driving Drowsy is Just as Dangerous as Driving Drunk

Published on Dec 14, 2016 at 1:12 pm in Auto Accident.

New research released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety shows that driving drowsy is just as risky as driving drunk, finding that the lesser the amount of sleep, the greater the risk of accident. “You cannot miss sleep and still expect to be able to safely function behind the wheel,” said David Yang, the executive director for the foundation. “Our new research shows that a driver who has slept for less than five hours has a crash risk comparable to someone driving drunk.”

Data from the National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey was used to determine just how much driving ability decreases when sleep deprivation increases. Getting even just one hour less than the recommended seven hours of nightly sleep can increase your risk of accident. Drivers who slept for less than 4 of the last 24 hours had an 11.5 percent higher risk of getting in a crash.  Drivers who slept 4-5 hours had a 4.3 percent higher risk. And those who slept 6-7 hours had a 1.3 percent higher risk. These percentages could be even greater, as data from crashes occurring between the hours of midnight and 6:00 am was not available, and other studies have shown that the effects of sleep deprivation are greatest during the early morning hours.

The report said that driving with 4-5 hours of sleep is comparable to driving with a blood alcohol content greater than the legal limit of 0.08. Tom Calcagni from the AAA Mid Atlantic office said, “The crash risk associated with having slept less than 4 hours of sleep is comparable to the crash risk associated with a blood alcohol content of roughly 0.12-0.15.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about 35 percent of people do not get enough sleep, meaning they sleep less than the necessary seven hours every night. An earlier AAA survey determined that 97 percent of drivers think it is unacceptable and unsafe to drive a car without enough sleep, yet a third of those surveyed admitted to driving in the past month “when they were so tired that they had trouble keeping their eyes open.”

An earlier AAA report showed that 21 percent of crashes involved a sleep-deprived driver. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said that 35,092 people were killed on U.S. roads in 2015, up 7.2 percent from 32,675 in 2014. AAA offers suggestions for staying safe and recommends taking frequent driving breaks, trading off with another driver, and avoiding heavy foods or medication that can make you feel drowsy. 

If you wish to learn more about the risks of driving while drowsy or have been a victim of a car accident that involved a drowsy or otherwise negligent or distracted driver, contact Thomas Law Offices for more information or to receive a zero-obligation case consultation. Tad Thomas, Louisville, KY car accident lawyer, and his team are dedicated to helping their clients–and all of Kentucky– enjoy safer roads.