A lack of sleep can be as dangerous as alcohol consumption when it comes to car accidents. A new report has concluded that fatigued driving could be more dangerous than most people believe. Given the nationwide epidemic of sleep deprivation, that is bad news for drivers everywhere.
The drunk driving comparison
Most people understand that alcohol and safe driving do not go hand in hand. While drunk driving has remained stubbornly common, education campaigns have been successful in turning the tide of public opinion against getting behind the wheel drunk. Public perception has lagged when it comes to the dangers of fatigued driving.
According to a report from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, driving on four or five hours of sleep a night is as dangerous as driving at the legal limit of .08. Driving after less than 4 hours of sleep in a night is comparable to driving with a BAC of .12 to .15. The less sleep you get, the greater your risk of crashing. This mirrors the increasing risk of a car accident as you consume more alcohol.
Getting enough sleep
The director of Traffic Safety Advocacy & Research for AAA concluded that driving on less than 7 hours of sleep is unsafe. Unfortunately, 35 percent of Americans report getting less than 7 hours of sleep a night. More than 10 percent average less than 5 hours per night. Sleep deprivation is a growing problem throughout the nation.
What to do
If you are feeling tired, you are not safe to drive. Whenever possible, you should pull over and either take a nap or find another way to get where you are going. This may be unrealistic in many situations, but the stakes in these cases are high. Approximately 7,000 people were killed in fatal accidents involving a drowsy driver in 2015. In general, it is important to make a commitment to get enough sleep. Some issues, such as sleep apnea, could have a medical component. Stress and anxiety can also lead to sleep deprivation. Whatever the cause, it is vital to address the situation and do what you can to stay safe. That means getting enough sleep before you get behind the wheel.
Source: NPR, “Drivers Beware: Crash Rate Spikes With Every Hour Of Lost Sleep,” by Allison Aubrey, 6 December 2016