Car crashes remain one of the leading causes of catastrophic injury and death in the United States. Various studies — as well as plain common sense — tell us that driver fatigue or drowsiness can lead to motor vehicle crashes. A new study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has quantified the relationship between sleep deprivation and car crash risk in the general driving population.
Less Than 7 Hours of Sleep Increases Risk of Car Crash
The study analyzed nearly 5,000 motor vehicle crashes occurring over a 2-year period between 2005 and 2007. The researchers found a measurable correlation between the number of hours that a driver had slept in the past 24 hours and the risk of car crash, specifically:
Drivers who had slept for less than 4 hours, 4-5 hours, 5-6 hours, and 6-7 hours in the past 24 hours had an estimated 11.5, 4.3, 1.9, and 1.3 times the crash rate, respectively, of drivers who had slept for 7 hours or more in the past 24 hours.
Not surprisingly, the researchers recommend getting at least 7 hours of sleep before driving the following day.
Crash Risk of Driving While Fatigued Equivalent to Drunk Driving
Everyone knows that drunk driving is unsafe and leads to thousands of preventable car crashes and lives lost each year. Well, the researchers in this study found that the increased crash risk associated with driving after only 4 hours of sleep is the same as the risk of driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) just above the legal limit (0.08). The increase in crash rate associated with driving after less than 4 hours of sleep is even greater!
So get a good night of sleep, and be safe.
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