New study shows the risks of driving when sleep deprived.
If you’re not getting enough sleep at night, you’re putting yourself and others at risk when you hit the road. That’s the conclusion from a new study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, which looked at how the likelihood of a driver having a car crash changed based on their sleep patterns.
The AAA study used federal crash data from 2005 to 2007 that covered 7,234 drivers involved in 4,571 crashes. It found that drivers who got six to seven hours of sleep per night had 1.3 times the crash risk of drivers getting at least seven hours. That crash rate rose to 1.9 times the normal level for four to five hours of sleep, 4.3 times for drivers who got 4.3 times the crash risk, and a whopping 11.5 times the standard crash risk for drivers with under four hours of sleep per night.
“Our new research shows that a driver who has slept for less than five hours has a crash risk comparable to someone driving drunk,” AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety executive director David Yang said in a statement.
How widespread is the issue? The AAA study found that one in three drivers surveyed said that in the prior month, they had driven when they were so tired they were unable to keep their eyes open. Nonetheless, 97 percent of drivers surveyed said drowsy driving was “completely unacceptable.”
Earlier this year, the National Safety Council revealed that U.S. roads were getting more dangerous. Through the first half of 2016, the number of driving fatalities had risen 9 percent year-over-year and 18 percent compared to two years prior. The NSC report blamed much of that increase on the fact that Americans were driving more miles than ever before.
Drivers who miss between one to two hours of the recommended seven hours of sleep in a 24-hour period nearly double their risk for a crash, according to new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that 35 percent of U.S. drivers sleep less than the recommended seven hours daily. And with drowsy driving involved in more than one in five fatal crashes on U.S. roadways each year, AAA warns drivers that getting less than seven hours of sleep may have deadly consequences.
“You cannot miss sleep and still expect to be able to safely function behind the wheel,” said Dr. David Yang, executive director for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “Our new research shows that a driver who has slept for less than five hours has a crash risk comparable to someone driving drunk.”
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s report, Acute Sleep Deprivation and Risk of Motor Vehicle Crash Involvement, reveals that drivers missing 2-3 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period more than quadrupled their risk of a crash compared to drivers getting the recommended seven hours of sleep. This is the same crash risk the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration associates with driving over the legal limit for alcohol.
The AAA Foundation report found that in a 24-hour period, crash risk for sleep-deprived drivers increased steadily when compared to drivers who slept the recommended seven hours or more:
Six to seven hours of sleep: 1.3 times the crash risk
Five to six hours of sleep: 1.9 times the crash risk
Four to five hours of sleep: 4.3 times the crash risk
Less than four hours of sleep: 11.5 times the crash risk
While 97 percent of drivers told the AAA Foundation they view drowsy driving as a completely unacceptable behavior that is a serious threat to their safety, nearly one in three admit that at least once in the past month they drove when they were so tired they had a hard time keeping their eyes open.
“Managing a healthy work-life balance can be difficult and far too often we sacrifice our sleep as a result,” said Jake Nelson, director of Traffic Safety Advocacy and Research for AAA. “Failing to maintain a healthy sleep schedule could mean putting yourself or others on the road at risk.”
Symptoms of drowsy driving can include having trouble keeping eyes open, drifting from lanes or not remembering the last few miles driven. However, more than half of drivers involved in fatigue-related crashes experienced no symptoms before falling asleep behind the wheel. AAA urges drivers to not rely on their bodies to provide warning signs of fatigue and should instead prioritize getting plenty of sleep (at least seven hours) in their daily schedules. For longer trips, drivers should also:
Travel at times when normally awake
Schedule a break every two hours or every 100 miles
Avoid heavy foods
Travel with an alert passenger and take turns driving
Avoid medications that cause drowsiness or other impairment
The AAA Foundation report is based on the analysis of a representative sample of 7,234 drivers involved in 4,571 crashes. All data is from the NHTSA’s National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey which comprised a representative sample of police-reported crashes that involved at least one vehicle that was towed from the scene and resulted in emergency medical services being dispatched to the scene.