Worker Health and Wellness

Research links lack of sleep to increased risk of vehicle crashes

driving car

Photo: NicoElNino/iStockphoto

Washington – Do you sleep only five or six hours a night? If so, your risk of being involved in a vehicle crash is doubled – and that risk increases sharply the less you sleep – according to research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

Researchers examined data from the National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey about more than 7,200 drivers involved in about 4,600 police-reported motor vehicle crashes between July 2005 and December 2007. They found that people who sleep six to seven hours per night increased their crash risk 1.3 times. Sleeping four to five hours puts a person at 4.3 times the risk, and with less than four hours of sleep, it’s 11.5 times the risk.

“You cannot miss sleep and still expect to be able to safely function behind the wheel,” Dr. David Yang, executive director of the foundation, said in a press release. “Our new research shows that a driver who has slept for less than five hours has a crash risk comparable to someone driving drunk.”

Although 97 percent of drivers said drowsy driving is unacceptable and dangerous, almost 1 in 3 reported they drove when they had difficulty keeping their eyes open at least once in the previous month, and most drivers in fatigue-related crashes said they had no symptoms of drowsy driving before they fell asleep.

AAA offers the following tips to help avoid drowsy driving:

  • Drive during normal awake hours.
  • Take a break every couple of hours or 100 miles.
  • Drive with an alert passenger and switch off driving.
  • Don’t take medications that impair or cause drowsiness.
  • Don’t rely on your body for warning signs of fatigue.

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