With holiday travel fast approaching, it’s important to be reminded to get enough sleep before getting behind the wheel. Drivers who miss between one to two hours of the recommended seven hours of sleep in a 24-hour period nearly double their risk for a crash, according to new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
And missing two to three hours of sleep more than quadruples the risk for a crash, according to the new report, published Dec. 6 from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. This is the same crash risk a person faces when driving over the legal limit for alcohol, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
“Our new research shows that a driver who has slept for less than five hours has a crash risk comparable to someone driving drunk,” David Yang, the executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, said in a statement.
Results showed people who said that they slept six hours the night before were 1.3 times more likely to be involved in a car accident, 1.9 times greater with five hours, 4.3 times greater with four hours and so on.
The researchers looked at survey data from the NHTSA, which included information on more than 7,200 drivers involved in more than 4,500 crashes across the U.S. The drivers reported the number of hours of sleep they received during the 24 hours preceding their crashes.
Among the drivers surveyed, 97 percent said that they viewed drowsy driving as a completely unacceptable behavior, according to the report. However, nearly one in three drivers admitted that they drove at least once in the past month when they were so tired they could barely stay awake.
Staying safe behind the wheel
Having trouble keeping your eyes open is one symptom of drowsy driving, along with drifting from your lane and forgetting the last few miles driven. But more than half of drivers who are involved in drowsy-driving-related crashes experience no symptoms before falling asleep while driving, AAA said.
AAA recommends for drivers not to rely on their bodies to provide the “warning signs” of being too tired to drive. Rather, drivers should prioritize getting at least 7 hours of sleep each night.
AAA also recommends that on longer trips, drivers should plan to travel at times when they are normally awake, schedule a break every two hours, or 100 miles, avoid heavy foods, travel with an alert passenger and take turns driving.