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Sleep-deprived behind the wheel

Everyone has their routines before traveling in their cars or trucks, from grabbing or finding keys to locating a charging cord for a smartphone depleted of power. What many don’t consider, if not take for granted, is the amount of sleep they have had before getting behind the wheel.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety recently released results of a study – Acute Sleep Deprivation and Risk of Motor Vehicle Crash Involvement – that shows driving while sleep-deprived is a prominent and dangerous trend that impairs reactions and responses while causing lengthy lapses in attention.

The foundation also found that up to 21 percent of all crashes involve a drowsy driver.

The link between lack of sleep and likelihood of accidents

The study focuses on the amount of sleep participants received in the previous 24 hours and their probability of causing an accident. Specific categories included specific sleep patterns that significantly increase crash rates:

  • Less than five hours daily
  • Less than seven hours in the past 24 hours
  • One or more hours less than their usual amount of sleep in the past 24 hours.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends that healthy adults sleep seven to nine hours a day. Young adults, teenagers, those who are sick, and individuals trying to make up for lost sleep require more. Findings from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention reveal that far too many ignore that advice, with more than a third of adults sleeping less than seven hours and twelve percent sleeping less than five.

While reckless and drunk driving result in more injuries and deaths, the lack of research on the link between sleep deprivation and accident risks is alarming. Outside of an admission of a tired driver, little can be done to prove a lack of sleep resulted in serious, if not deadly, consequences.