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How much sleep does the average driver need?

As much as everyone loves the holiday season, there is no denying that it is also one of the more hectic times of the year. That's because in addition to managing the challenges of work, family and everyday life, people also have to find time to shop, decorate, bake, attend parties and complete an endless number of seasonal chores.

While the payoff on December 25 makes it well worth it, there's no denying that it can be exhausting. Indeed, those who are sacrificing sleep to get everything done may want to take note of a recent study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety examining the dangers of drowsy driving.

What exactly did the study find?

The AAA study set out to examine the degree to which a person's risk of being involved in a car accident is affected by their getting less than the seven hours of sleep per night recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  

After crunching the numbers, they found that the accident risk increases dramatically with each hour of sleep lost.

How dramatically does the accident risk increase with each hour of lost sleep?

The researchers determined the following concerning sleep loss and crash risk:

  • The crash risk is 1.3 times greater for drivers getting between six to seven hours of sleep.
  • The crash risk is 1.9 times greater for drivers getting between five to six hours of sleep.
  • The crash risk is 4.3 times greater for drivers getting between four to five hours of sleep.
  • The crash risk is 11.5 times greater for drivers getting less than four hours of sleep.

To put this in perspective, consider that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has determined that the crash risk for drivers under the influence of alcohol is roughly four times greater, such that there is little difference then between the abilities of an intoxicated driver and a driver who got only five hours of sleep.

How big of a safety problem is this?

It would seem to be a major safety problem if you consider any one of the following statistics:

  • AAA has found that drowsy drivers are involved in more than one in five deadly accidents on U.S. roads and highways every year.
  • The CDC has found that 35 percent of U.S. drivers sleep less than seven hours.
  • The researchers in the study discussed above found that one out of three drivers surveyed confessed to getting behind the wheel when they had a hard time keeping their eyes open within the last month.

Here's hoping that more people get the message about the dangers of drowsy driving.

In the meantime, if you've been seriously injured or lost a loved one because of the reckless actions of another behind the wheel, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional to learn more about your rights and your options.

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