Lack of Sleep and Car Crashes: The Documented Link

Drivers often hear about not driving after drinking or while distracted, but there’s another dangerous driving behavior on the rise: getting behind the wheel without enough sleep.

As covered by NPR, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety just released a report indicating that drivers who sleep just five or six hours over a 24-hour period are twice as likely to be in a crash than drivers who sleep at least seven hours. This report also showed that the less sleep a driver gets, the higher his or her crash rate climbs. A person who got four or five hours of sleep, for example, had four times the crash rate, which is close to what is seen with people driving drunk.

Previous research has shown that around one-fifth of all fatal accidents in the United States involved a sleepy driver. In 2015, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) data showed that 35,092 people lost their lives in auto accidents; this was a 7.2 percent increase from 2014.

The foundation used the National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey that was conducted by NHTSA. The data in this survey is taken from police-reported accidents in which one or more vehicles had to be towed from the crash site and/or emergency medical personnel were called. Drivers who were involved in these accidents were asked how much sleep they got in the 24 hours leading up to the accident.

Many studies find a lack of sleep to be a problem across the country in general. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported that about one in three American adults don’t get enough sleep regularly. Lack of sleep can cause trouble focusing and concentrating, poor judgment, delayed reaction time and other issues that can interfere with a person’s ability to safely drive.

People often don’t make sleep a priority until something happens, as was the case with Cincinnati nurse Karen Roberts. She fell asleep behind the wheel after an overnight shift at her job, crossed the double line and caused a crash. According to Roberts, she knew she was tired but was close to home and drove anyway, with the head-on crash happening in an instant. The other driver walked away with some minor injuries, and while Roberts did recover from her initial injuries, she still struggles with medical problems related to the crash, including some headaches. These days, says the nurse, sleep is something that she holds as truly important.

Experts suggest making sure you get enough sleep before getting behind the wheel. If you’re under the recommended seven to eight hours a night and absolutely must drive, assess your condition before hitting the road and try to take a nap. Naturally, if you can avoid the road when you haven’t had enough sleep, that’s still the best way to go.

If you or someone you love has been injured because of a drowsy driver, speak to an experienced auto accident and negligence lawyer Denver CO relies on today about your case and all your rights.

Richard J. Banta, P.C.Thanks to our friends and contributors from Richard J. Banta, P.C. into personal injury practice.