A driver who has slept for less than five hours has a crash risk comparable to someone driving drunk.
Washington: Drivers who miss between one to two hours of the recommended seven hours of sleep may nearly double their risk for a crash, a new study warned.
The study shows that drivers missing two to three hours of sleep in a 24-hour period more than quadrupled their risk of a crash. This is the same crash risk the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration associates with driving over the legal limit for alcohol, researchers said. "You cannot miss sleep and still expect to be able to
safely function behind the wheel," said David Yang from American Automobile Association (AAA) Foundation for Traffic Safety, a non-profit dedicated to traffic safety research and education.
"Our new research shows that a driver who has slept for less than five hours has a crash risk comparable to someone driving drunk," said Yang. The report found that in a 24-hour period, crash risk for sleep-deprived drivers increased steadily when compared to drivers who slept the recommended seven hours or more. The risk increases as the sleep duration is reduced, as four to five hours of sleep ups the risk by 4.3 times and less than four hours of sleep takes up it to 11.5 times.
While 97 per cent of drivers said they view drowsy driving as a completely unacceptable behaviour that is a serious threat to their safety, nearly one in three admit that at least once in the past month they drove when they were so tired they had a hard time keeping their eyes open. "Managing a healthy work-life balance can be difficult
and far too often we sacrifice our sleep as a result," said Jake Nelson from AAA.
"Failing to maintain a healthy sleep schedule could mean putting yourself or others on the road at risk," said Nelson. Symptoms of drowsy driving can include having trouble
keeping eyes open, drifting from lanes or not remembering the last few miles driven.
However, more than half of drivers involved in fatigue-related crashes experienced no symptoms before falling asleep behind the wheel. The report is based on the analysis of a representative sample of 7,234 drivers involved in 4,571 crashes.