Although public safety campaigns have made drivers keenly aware of the dangers associated with drunk and distracted driving, plenty of otherwise responsible drivers still get behind the wheel in the morning without getting a good night’s sleep beforehand. We might not think much of driving while drowsy, but a new report released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety demonstrates just how dangerous sleep-deprived driving can be.
The report found that drivers who only get five or six hours of sleep over the course of a 24-hour period are twice as likely to crash as those who get seven hours of sleep or more. When drivers get less than 5 hours of sleep, their risk of a car accident increases even more dramatically. At four hours of sleep, the risk of a car accident is roughly equivalent to that of drunk drivers.
The report’s conclusions were based on data drawn from the NHTSA’s National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Study. The study surveyed car accident police reports, and subsequently asked drivers to report how much sleep they had gotten in the 24-hour period leading up to the accidents.
In light of the report’s findings, AAA safety officials are urging drivers to refrain from driving when they haven’t gotten a good night’s sleep. According to Jake Nelson, director of Traffic Safety Advocacy & Research for AAA, drivers “really shouldn’t be behind the wheel of a car” if they haven’t gotten seven or more hours of sleep in the last 24 hours. Americans might pride themselves on being able to function on just a few hours of sleep and a couple cups of coffee, but this attitude could pose a very real threat to driver safety.
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