A recent study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety showed that driving while drowsy can be as dangerous as driving while intoxicated.
The study showed that drowsy driving is a factor in the causation of 17 percent of all fatal traffic accidents. This leads some to conclude that drowsy driving is as dangerous as driving while intoxicated. AAA director of traffic safety Jake Nelson stated, “If we’ve earned only four to five hours of sleep in a night the odds of getting into a car crash are the same as driving legally drunk due to alcohol.”
From a practical stand point, studies like this often fail to provide much incentive for people to change their behavior. Most people will rationalize that they would perform better than the average person or that this doesn’t apply to them for some reason or another. The problem, of course, is that no matter who you are, sleep deprivation causes a slowing in your reaction time and a decrease in the accuracy of your response to the situation. Moreover, you will not know this is the case until you are in the potentially fatal situation in your vehicle. Drivers who reported that they usually sleep for 4-5 hours per day had 5.4 times the crash rate of drivers who usually sleep 7 hours or more.
Even more compelling is that when compared to drivers who reported that they had slept their usual amount in the past 24 hours, drivers who reported they had slept:
- 1-2 hours less than usual had 1.3 times the crash rate
- 2-3 hours less than usual had 3.0 times the crash rate
- 3-4 hours less than usual had 2.1 times the crash rate
- 4 or more hours less than usual had 10.2 times the crash rate
The take away here is that drivers need to be aware of the effect that not getting their normal amount of sleep can have on their driving. Moreover, if fatigued, the type of driving problem that you might encounter, veering out of your lane, for example, is the type of situation that can result in much worse than a fender bender. These mistakes can cause serious collisions that can have life altering consequences. So, like drinking and distracted driving, sleep-deprived driving is a very real problem that everyone needs to be aware of so they can protect themselves, their loved ones and their community.