Tired Drivers Just as Dangerous as Drunk Ones, Study Finds

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Tired driver yawning

A recent study found tired drivers are just as likely to cause a car crash as drivers driving under influence. Experts warn that during this holiday season drunk driving is not the only hazard on the nation’s roads. Sleep deprived drivers who miss 1 to 2 hours of the recommended sleep time boost their risk of having an accident twofold.

Researchers reported sleeping less than five hours at night and driving a car is as dangerous as driving under influence. The phenomenon even has a name: drowsy driving. Moreover, the research shows that drivers who skip 2 to 3 hours of eye-shut quadruple they risk of a road accident.

You cannot miss sleep and still expect to be able to safely function behind the wheel,

noted David Yang of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

Yang, who was involved in the research, underlined that sleeping less than five hours boosts car crash risk to levels comparable to drunk driving. The recommended sleep time for an adult is 7 to 8 hours per night.

Researchers at the Sleep Council noted more than 30 percent of adult population sleep just five to six hours per night. Additionally, the Sleep Foundation found 60 percent of adult Americans admitted driving under severe sleep deprivation. But what’s even more alarming 37 percent said they doze off behind the wheel at least once.

Researchers warned people who get less than 6 hours of sleep at night have a significant risk of serious mental and physical problems. The team also discovered that drowsy drivers are more likely to engage in a “fight or flight” mode in traffic. This means they are more irritable as their body’s reaction to stress speeds up blood flow and heart rate.

The latest analysis relied on data on drivers responsible for more than 4,500 crashes. The study revealed drivers who slept just four hours per night saw their risk of a crash jump by 11 times. Recent statistics show one in five traffic incidents is due to drowsy driving.

Fortunately, 97 percent of surveyed drivers by AAA Foundation acknowledged driving while severely sleep deprived is unacceptable. However, one-third admitted they drove despite being very tired at least once over the last 30 days.

AAA experts believe the problem can be solved by having a healthy work-life balance. Unfortunately, very few people are able to achieve that so many would rather sleep less as a result.

AAA cautioned that failing to have healthy sleep patterns endangers both the driver’s and other traffic participants’ lives. Experts say one major red flag of drowsy driving is the struggle to keep your eyes open. Other symptoms include drifting and inability to recall what happened the last few miles.

Nevertheless, most of drowsy drivers said they didn’t have any of these symptoms before dozing off and having a crash. AAA researchers explained the human body is not very reliable in providing warning signs. As rule of thumb, all drivers should get at least seven hours of sleep.

Image Source: Flickr

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