Drowsy Driving Significantly Increases Risk of a Crash, Report Shows

Car Crash Results in Lunchtime Driving Ban at CA High School
Car Crash Results in Lunchtime Driving Ban at CA High School

Sleep Deprivation Can Cause Deadly Car Accident

Common sense dictates that driving while sleep-deprived is dangerous and places everyone on the road at risk for an accident. However, a new report has analyzed the relationship between amounts of sleep and relative increased risk. The findings highlight the dangers of drowsy driving. In fact, when a driver is sleep-deprived to a certain extent, their risk of getting into an accident is similar to someone who is driving drunk, the report says.

Parker Waichman LLP has decades of experience representing automobile accident victims. The firm continues to offer free legal consultations to individuals with questions about filing a car accident lawsuit.

Research was conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety; findings were published in a December 2016 report titled, “Acute Sleep Deprivation and Risk of Motor Vehicle Crash Involvement”.

Previously, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has conducted research showing that driver drowsiness affects 7 percent of all motor vehicle crashes, 13 percent of crashes leading to hospital admission and 21 percent of fatal crashes. The report notes, however that “the relationship between specific measures of sleep deprivation and crash risk has not been quantified in the general driving population.” The current study analyzed data from a representative sample of crashes that occurred in the United States between Jul. 3, 2005 and Dec. 31, 2007. All accidents “involved at least one light vehicle that was towed due to damage, resulted in an emergency medical services dispatch, and were subject to on-scene multidisciplinary investigations as a part of a special study by the U.S. Department of Transportation”. Drivers’ recent sleep habits were assessed as part of the investigation.

Researchers quantified the relationship between crash risk and the number of hours of sleep in the past 24 hours. The study was a case-control design. The analysis included drivers who were found to have acted in an unsafe, illegal or otherwise wrongful manner that investigators said was key to causing the crash. Comparatively, researchers also included control drivers who were not found to cause a crash in this manner. In total, the study included 7,234 drivers involved in 4,571 crashes.

Compared to drivers who slept for 7 hours or more in the past 24 hours, drivers who slept for less than 4 hours, 4-5 hours, 5-6 hours, and 6-7 hours in the past 24 hours had an estimated 11.5, 4.3, 1.9, and 1.3 times the crash rate, respectively, the report states.

Researchers also conducted an analysis looking at the amount of sleep a driver got in the past 24 hours compared to what they usually get. Compared to drivers who usually sleep 7 hours or more, drivers who said they usually sleep for 4 to 5 hours had 5.4 times the crash rate. Getting less sleep than usual was associated with an increased crash rate. Compared to drivers who got their usual amount of sleep, those who slept 1-2 hours less than usual, 2-3 hours less than usual, 3-4 less than usual, and 4 or more hours less than usual in the past 24 hours had 1.3, 3.0, 2.1, and 10.2 times the crash rate, respectively.

“This study may underestimate the risk of driving while sleep-deprived, because data on crashes that occurred between midnight and 6 AM were not available, and other studies have shown that the effects of sleep deprivation on attention and performance are greatest during the early morning hours,” the report states.

Most adults should get at least 7 hours of sleep each night, experts advise. The findings of the study reaffirm the importance of adequate sleep before getting behind the wheel. Researchers found “significantly elevated crash rates” among drivers who usually sleep for less than 5 hours daily, drivers who have slept for less than 7 hours in the past 24 hours, and drivers who have slept for 1 or more hours less than their usual amount of sleep in the past 24 hours.

The risk of drowsy driving can be comparable to the risk of drunk driving, the report suggests. Compared to drivers who slept 7 hours or more, the estimated rate ratio for crash involvement associated with driving after only 4-5 hours of sleep “is similar to the U.S. government’s estimates of the risk associated with driving with a blood alcohol concentration equal to or slightly above the legal limit for alcohol in the U.S.,” The crash rate is much greater after less than 4 hours of sleep.

Sleep Deprivation and Car Accident Lawsuits

Parker Waichman comments that driving while sleep-deprived places everyone on the road at risk. Drowsy driving may occur more frequently among certain populations, such as commercial truck drivers who must drive long distances across the country. Other individuals who may be at risk for drowsy driving include: people with long work shifts (such as those last 12 hours or more), night shift workers, individuals with undiagnosed or untreated sleep apnea (a condition where someone stops breathing periodically while they sleep), individuals taking sedative medications and people suffering from jet lag.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), sleep deprivation is involved in 100,000 car accidents annually; drowsy driving is implicated in 71,000 injuries and 1,500 traffic deaths.

Individuals injured from a drowsy driving car accident can file a lawsuit for damages. Compensation from an injury claim can help pay for medical bills, lost wages, property damage and pain and suffering. Contact an experienced personal injury who obtain an appropriate settlement for your injuries.

A 2005 poll from the National Sleep Foundation found that 60 percent of adult drivers, or 168 million people, reported driving a vehicle while feeling drowsy. One-third of drivers said they actually fell asleep at the wheel and, among those, 13 percent admitted that it happens at least once a month.

Legal Help for Car Accident Victims

Parker Waichman has decades of experience representing car accident and other accident victims. If you or someone you know was injured in a car accident, you may have valuable legal rights. Our personal injury attorneys offer free, no-obligation case evaluations. For more information, fill out our online form or call 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).