Over the last few years, researchers have begun to grasp the ways that sleep is as important to human health as diet or exercise. Sleep is key to healing, mental and physical vitality, and much more.
It’s key to staying alive in one other way: preventing drowsy driving accidents.
Conservative estimates show that 1 in 5 fatal car accidents involve lack of sleep. Drunk driving was the only fatal car accident factor more common than drowsiness, but the figures may not be accurate. Researchers say the actual rate of vehicle accidents caused by lack of sleep could be much higher, as falling asleep at the wheel is severely underreported. 60% of adults report falling asleep at the wheel in the last year, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
So lack of sleep is a big problem…but how big?
Sleep Driving Akin to Drunk Driving
Sleep-deprived drivers are responsible for at least 6,000 fatal crashes every year, according to studies cited by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). There are around 83,000 crashes every year with drowsiness listed as a cause, and 37,000 of them ended in injury.
It’s easy to understand why. Lack of sleep causes:
- Low attention span
- Slow reaction times
- Poor decision-making
Studies done on the effects of drowsiness found that drivers who were awake for 18 hours straight performed as well as drivers with a .05 BAC. Drivers who were awake for just 6 hours longer (i.e., a full 24 hours) performed as well as people with a BAC of .10. Being awake just a few hours longer cut performance in half. And when alcohol and lack of sleep are combined? The effects of even a little alcohol were magnified by lack of sleep.
Who Is Most Likely to Crash Due to Sleep Driving?
Everyone has dealt with lack of sleep, but there are certain groups for whom there’s an elevated risk. These groups include people in certain kinds of work, and people with certain medical conditions.
Drowsy driving risk groups include:
- Commercial drivers
- Shift workers
- Drivers with sleep apnea
- People who snore
- People who routinely get less than 6 hours of sleep
These are not mutually exclusive categories. As we reported on this blog before, truckers are unlikely to get much sleep, but a trucker with sleep apnea is especially dangerous. A trucker with sleep apnea who has a substance abuse problem is a serious threat to themselves and others on the road.
How to Avoid Sleeping While Driving
- Get at least 7 hours of sleep
- Stick to a sleep routine
- Don’t take your phone to bed
- Avoid alcohol or medicine that causes drowsiness
- Don’t drive long distances alone, if possible
- Sit with your head up and back straight
- Take a break every 2 hours to stretch
- Have two cups of a caffeinated beverage
If you were severely harmed in a motor vehicle accident, the other driver (and your own insurer) is obligated to provide for everything you need to recover. Tony Clayton fights to make sure insurers and at-fault parties do what they’re supposed to do, and our firm has won billions doing exactly that.