Study: Sleep deprivation as dangerous as driving while drunk

A new AAA study has found that drivers who lose just an hour of sleep are twice as likely to get into a crash.

A new study is showing just how deadly driving while tired can be. As CBS News reports, the study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found not only that drowsy driving is incredibly dangerous, but that losing just a couple of hours of sleep each night is enough to make one drive as though impaired. The study highlights an issue that is urgent and widespread, but which often goes overlooked in discussions about traffic safety. It suggests that tackling sleep loss could be an effective way at dramatically reducing road accident deaths across the country.

Losing just a couple hours

The study looked at police-reported data to determine the crash rate of those who lose a certain amount of sleep over a 24 hour period. Drivers who got five to six hours of sleep had a crash rate that was twice as high as those who got at least seven hours of sleep, suggesting that losing just an hour or so of sleep per night is more than enough to drastically affect one's driving abilities.

Losing even more sleep than that led to even more drastic increases in the accident rate. Getting only four to five hours of sleep per night, for example, leads to drivers being four times more likely to be involved in an accident than those who get seven hours of sleep. That accident rate is about the same as what drivers impaired by alcohol experience.

The deadly toll of drowsy driving

While plenty of media attention is paid to drunk driving and distracted driving, drowsy driving often tends to go unnoticed both in terms of its danger and its prevalence. As NPR reports, however, lack of sleep is a widespread problem, with a third of Americans regularly not sleeping enough. Safety experts say that drivers should only ever get behind the wheel if they have had at least seven hours of sleep the night before.

Nationwide, traffic fatalities are also increasing. In 2015, more than 35,000 people were killed in traffic accidents across the United States, which was an increase of 7.2 percent compared to 2014. Given that a third of drivers say they have gotten behind the wheel while driving, it is likely that many of those deaths could have been prevented if more drivers had simply been better rested.

Personal injury law

Being injured in a motor vehicle accident is a harrowing and challenging experience. Furthermore, the difficulties do not end with the accident itself. Instead, crash victims will have to contend with the financial difficulties that often arise in the aftermath of an accident. A personal injury attorney can help those who have been in an accident understand what legal avenues are open to them, including what types of financial compensation they may be able to claim.