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New Study Highlights Sleep Deprivation Danger on the Road

iStock_000024933261_car crashWhile the risks associated with sleep deprivation and driving a motor vehicle have been well documented to date, a new study shows the direct link between the number of sleep hours missed and the quantitative crash risk. The findings demonstrate that even drivers that miss just an hour of their usual sleep have an increased risk of an accident if they get behind the wheel.

The AAA Foundation released the results of their study in a report titled, “Acute Sleep Deprivation and Risk of Motor Vehicle Crash Involvement,” which looks specifically at the rate ratio for crash involvement in association with the number of hours of sleep lost in a 24-hour period. Researchers compared drivers that were found to be responsible for the crash in some way with drivers that were not at fault in the crash. They looked at a total of 7,234 drivers involved in 4,571 crashes.

Less sleep, more crashes

They found that drivers that slept less than four hours in a 24-hour period were 11.5 times more likely to be involved in a crash. Those that slept 4-5 hours had a 4.3 higher risk of a crash, while those that slept 5-6 hours saw their crash risk go down to 1.9 times. The risks associated with those that slept 4-5 hours were similar to those of a driver with a blood alcohol level equal to or slightly above the legal limit in the United States, while those that slept less had a much higher risk.

Drivers that got less than their usual amount of sleep also increased their crash risk. Those that lost four or more hours of their usual sleep had a 10.2 times higher risk of a crash, while those that missed 3-4 hours of sleep increased their risk by 2.1 times. Even those that missed just one hour of their usual sleep time increased their crash risk by 1.3 times.

While this study offers valuable information on just how much sleep a driver must lose to increase crash risk, it may underestimate the risk of crashes due to sleep deprivation overall. That is because the study does not include accidents between the hours of midnight and 6:00 a.m., the time frame when most of the accidents caused by sleep deprivation may actually occur.

The dangers of sleep deprivation

Previous research by the AAA Foundation has also linked lack of sleep to accident risk, finding that seven percent of all accidents might be attributed at least in part to drowsy driving. They also found that 13 percent of accidents resulting in a hospital admission and 21 percent of fatal accidents could be linked to sleep deprivation in some way. Lack of sleep has been shown to lower reaction time and lead to attention lapses that could contribute to traffic accidents.

The team at Ellis Injury Law are all too familiar with the devastating consequences that can occur as a result of drowsy driving. Our car accident attorneys work daily with victims of incidents that have had their lives changed profoundly as a result of catastrophic injuries or the loss of a loved one. If you or someone you love has been injured in one of these accidents, help is available. Contact Ellis Injury Law today for a free case evaluation and answers to all your legal questions.