A new study released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, found that sleeping just a two hours less than usual can double an individual's risk of getting into a motor vehicle accident. Missing three hours quadruples that risk, and those who slept less than four hours had eleven times the risk of getting into a collision.
The study featured data on 7,234 drivers who were involved in 4,571 vehicle accidents from 6:00a.m. to midnight between 2005 to 2007. According to the study, driving drowsy can be just as, if not more, dangerous than drunk driving. 97% of drivers surveyed by AAA agreed that drowsy drivers pose a serious potential threat on the roadway.
According to the Center for Disease Control, 33% of all highway deaths were alcohol related, while drowsiness was listed as playing a factor in 20% of such fatalities. A CDC report further found that approximately 35% of adults do not get the recommended 7 hours of sleep every night. The crash risk of a driver who has slept only four to five hours in the past 24 hours is similar to that of an individual driving while intoxicated according to Brian Tefft, senior research associate for the foundation.
To counteract drowsy driving, AAA recommends that drivers experiencing the effects of sleepiness while on the road take a break every 100 miles and avoiding driving during an individual's usual sleeping hours. They further recommend avoiding heavy meals and medications which cause drowsiness around the time one intends to get behind the wheel, and bringing a friend along on long trips to take shifts driving. The best option, however, is to immediately pull your vehicle over and either rest or find an alternative mode of travel if you begin to feel fatigued while driving.