Need Sleep? You're at Greater Risk of a Car Crash

Beware of the dangers of drowsy driving

If you've been skimping on sleep, listen up: Getting less than four hours of shut-eye each day gives you about the same level of impairment as being legally drunk.

So says a study released by the AAA Foundation for Safety this past December—one that, for the first time, sheds light on the correlation between sleep deprivation and a driver's risk of being in a car crash.

The Effects of Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation can slow a driver's reaction time, decrease the accuracy of their responses, and significantly affect their ability to focus on the road.

But that's not all. Sleep deprivation also:

  • Effects memory
  • Impairs judgement
  • Prompts mood swings
  • And could even cause some drivers to experience hallucinations

Past research has confirmed that sleepy driving is a common crash culprit. In fact, drowsy driving was a factor in:

  • 7 percent of all crashes that required a vehicle to be towed from the scene
  • 13 percent of all crashes that necessitated a hospital admission
  • 21 percent of all fatal crashes

This is a real concern considering that, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, almost a fifth of all adults sleep less than seven hours a night.

What the New Study Uncovered

The AAA study found that drivers who slept less than seven hours, and those who slept one or more hours less than they typically do are at a "significantly elevated" crash risk.

And that's not all. Compared to drivers who got at least seven hours of sleep, drivers who slept:

  • Five to six hours had almost two times the crash risk
  • Four to five hours had more than four times the crash risk
  • Less than four hours had more than 11.5 times the crash risk

The risk of crashing also goes up for people who sleep one or more hours less than they normally do. Consider this:

  • Drivers who slept two or three hours less than they typically do had almost three times the crash risk.
  • Drivers who slept four hours or less than they typically do had more than 10 times the crash risk.

The bottom line? The study backs up what sleep experts have long contended: Drivers who slept less than four or five hours over a 24-hour period could be significantly impaired. Drivers who slept less than two hours? They aren't fit to be behind the wheel.

Take some free legal advice from the car accident injury attorneys at Edgar Snyder & Associates: The dangers of drowsy driving are nothing to take lightly. If you've had a particularly poor night of sleep, please consider very seriously whether you're in a proper frame of mind to effectively operate a motor vehicle.

We know how car accidents can happen in an instant—and how they can change a person's life forever. Since 1982, our attorneys have represented accident victims, and we don't want you to be one—or create one.

AAA Foundation for Safety
Bureau of Labor Statistics
National Sleep Foundation WebMD