Chronic sleep loss is associated with numerous health complications, from an increased risk for diabetes to higher rates of cardiovascular disease and obesity. Recent research conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety sheds new light on the potentially fatal consequences of acute sleep deprivation, which according to studies, accounts for some 21 percent of all deadly car crashes.
Individuals who do not get adequate sleep often suffer from attention deficits, memory problems and slower reaction and response times – all of which can severely hamper driving abilities. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society, adults aged between 18 and 60 should get at least 7 hours of sleep for optimal health. In reality, however, most adults are lucky to score five to six hours of restful slumber. While much attention is paid to the consequences of driving while drunk, traffic safety experts are shifting the spotlight on driver drowsiness, which elevates car crash risks substantially.
Drowsy driving elevates crash risks
An estimated 35 percent of adults get less than 7 hours of nightly sleep, and 12 percent of U.S. adults report snoozing less than 5 hours each night, says the CDC. While these numbers may not be surprising, emerging research on sleep deprivation and crash risks may motivate motorists to be more mindful of their sleep patterns before getting behind the wheel.
AAA data shows that drivers who had slept for less than 4 hours, 4-5 hours, 5-6 hours, and 6-7 hours within the past 24 hours had increased vehicle crash rates of 11.5, 4.3, 1.9, and 1.3 times respectively. Traffic safety officials caution that driving after only 4 or 5 hours of sleep, compared with a standard 7 hours, puts motorists at the same risk as if they were driving with a blood alcohol concentration equal to or slightly above the legal limit (.08).
“After adjustment for driver age, relation to intersection, time of day, and recent change in sleep schedule, drivers who reported having slept for less than 4 hours in the past 24 hours had an estimated 11.5 times the odds of having contributed to the crash in which they were involved, compared with drivers who reported having slept for 7 or more hours in the past 24 hours,” says the December 2016 safety report.
Severe sleep deprivation, whether in the last 24 hours or several weeks, has a causal relationship with driver impairment and accident risk. According to the National Sleep Foundation, people who have slept less than 2 hours within a 24-hour period are not fit to operate a motor vehicle of any kind.
Who is at risk?
Drowsy driving-related crashes are more common in certain age groups and demographics, particularly among commercial truck drivers who make long-distance hauls across the country.
Other people at risk for drowsy driving crashes include:
- People with long (12-hour) shifts
- Night shift workers
- Younger drivers, especially males under the age of 25
- Business travelers suffering from jet lag
- Individuals with undiagnosed or untreated sleep apnea
- Individuals taking prescription sedative medications
Liability issues in fall-asleep crashes
Just like victims of drunk driving crashes, those who have been injured or lost a loved one due to a drowsy driver’s actions may have a claim for legal damages. Passengers and motorists who are hurt in such an accident can hold negligent drivers liable for civil damages in a personal injury or wrongful death complaint. In order to win fair compensation, it’s crucial to align yourself with veteran car accident attorneys with a strong record of success.
The law firm of Edelman, Krasin & Jaye boasts more than 60 years of combined experience helping Long Island and New York residents with their injury claims. To learn more about your legal options or to schedule a no-cost consultation with our firm, call today. We are available 24/7 to offer expert advice!
- AAAFoundation.org, Acute Sleep Deprivation and Crash Risk https://www.aaafoundation.org/acute-sleep-deprivation-and-crash-risk
- AAAFoundation.org, Acute Sleep Deprivation and Risk of Motor Vehicle Crash Involvement https://www.aaafoundation.org/sites/default/files/AcuteSleepDeprivationCrashRisk.pdf