A recent study, published on September 18 by Oxford Academic Sleep Research Society, indicates that people who are sleep deprived have a much greater chance of being involved in a car accident. The research particularly suggests that people who have slept less than seven of the past 24 hours have increased risk of causing car crashes. The risk is the greatest for drivers who have slept only four or less than four hours in the past 24 hours.
Numerous studies have shown that people feel best and function optimally when they get seven to nine hours of sleep per night. However, the survey conducted by the US government reveals devastating data and indicates that most adults in the US sleep less than seven hours per night. Statistical data shows that 7% of all motor vehicle accidents in the US and 16% of fatal crashes are caused by drowsy driving.
While the dangers of drowsy driving are already well known, the study published by Oxford Academic Sleep Research Society is a first peer-reviewed study that quantified the relationship between how much a driver has slept and his risk of being the one responsible for a car crash. For this study to be conducted, researchers have analyzed data from a previous study by the US Department of Transportation. The Department of Transportation has thoroughly examined more than 5,000 crashes, and they have also conducted interviews with the drivers involved. The researchers concluded that drivers who reported less than four hours of sleep had 15.1 times higher chances of causing car crashes. Drivers who slept the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep had as much crash risk as someone who is driving with a BAC 1.5 times higher than the legal limit.
Further research suggested that, compared with drivers who slept from seven to nine hours, drivers who sleep six, five, and four hours per night have 1.3, 1.9 and 2.9 times the odds of responsibility for a motor vehicle accident. Driving when you have slept less than four hours per night in the last 24 hours also severely increases the risk of single motor vehicle accidents, which often result in severe injury or death. Drivers who have changed their sleep or work schedule in the past week were also found to be at increased risk. Lastly, drivers that have been driving for 3 hours or longer without a break also have an increased risk of causing a motor vehicle accident.
It’s critical to have in mind that being awake is not merely the same as being alert. When driving tired, you shouldn’t only worry about falling asleep, but also about not making certain mistakes. Since you are not well-rested and alert, you are at increased risk of making mistakes, such as misjudging a gap in traffic and failing to notice something important. Unfortunately, these kinds of errors can be fatal or have severely tragic consequences.
Co-founder of Counting Sheep and Sleepaholic