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Single Hour of Lost Sleep Can Double Your Accident Risk

A large body of evidence supports the fact that your accident risks increase when you are driving in a fatigued condition. But just how sleepy do you have to be to be involved in an accident? According to a new study, your accident risk doubles if you have lost just a single hour of sleep.

A staggering new study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety underscores the dangers of drowsy driving. According to the study, missing just an hour or two of sleep doubles your chances of being involved in a car accident the next day. If you drive after getting just 4 to 5 hours of sleep, your accident risk increases by four times. In fact, at that level, you are driving in a state that is comparable to that of a person with a blood-alcohol concentration between .12 and .15. That is higher than the .08 drunk driving limit in place in most states.

There are many studies on driving while tired, but this is the first one that aims to quantify the dangers.

At the national level, sleep experts recommend that Americans get 7-9 hours of sleep per 24 hours. However, most people get by with less than seven hours of sleep, and young adults and teenagers are often at a higher risk of under-sleeping.  When these persons drive after having had little sleep, they may suffer from a number of effects, including slower reaction times, poor judgment, and lower accuracy of responses. They may also suffer from long lapses in attention that could prove deadly when operating a car or truck.

Most people who sleep too little have a dozen excuses for their behavior – work pressures, deadlines, heavy traffic.  However, it’s important to remember that driving while drowsy puts everyone on the road at risk, including the people who you have as passengers in your car.  Our accident lawyers have seen first-hand the devastation a serious car wreck can have an individual and family and encourage everyone to understand the risks and proceed accordingly.

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  • Richard Pressley

    This is interesting information, but I’d like to know if there is a scientific way to quantify or measure a driver’s lack of sleep, like one’s blood alcohol level. If this were the case, would it make it any easier to hold sleepy drivers responsible for accidents caused by their lack of sleep?

    Despite too many drivers on the road who are drunk, I imagine the numbers would be even worse without a way for police officers to test a driver’s blood alcohol level through scientifically acceptable chemical testing.