Based upon a recent AAA Foundation Traffic Safety Study they stated that Drivers who lose one to two hours of sleep (based upon a 7 hour sleep cycle) over a 24 hour period nearly doubles their risk for a crash. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting that 35 percent of U.S. drivers sleep less than the recommended seven hours daily and drowsy driving is involved in more than one in five fatal crashes on U.S. roadways each year, AAA is warning drivers that getting less than seven hours of sleep may have deadly consequences.
AAA Officials state “You cannot miss sleep and still expect to be able to safely function behind the wheel”. Their research shows that a driver who has slept for less than five hours has a crash risk comparable to someone driving drunk.
The AAA article, 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 AAA 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.” “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. Drivers are urged not to 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
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