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San Diego Car Accident Attorney Update: AAA Study Quantifies Drowsy Driving Risks

by John Gomez | Last Updated: December 7, 2016
San Diego Car Accident Attorney

Sleep deprivation affects people in several negative ways.  Most people simply do not function at proper levels when they do not get enough sleep.  According to Johns Hopkins University, sleep deprivation can increase your risk of colorectal cancer, of high blood pressure and of heart disease among other things. We have posted about the risks associated with drowsy driving recently.  A new study has delved deeper into this issue.  Researchers with the American Automobile Association, or AAA, released a study that shows how different levels of sleep deprivation can negatively affect driver safety.  Every San Diego car accident attorney at Gomez Trial Attorneys would like the public to know the risks of getting behind the wheel without enough sleep.  If enough people are aware of these risks, perhaps some auto accidents can be avoided.

About the AAA Sleep Deprivation Study

The researchers analyzed data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey.  The crashes included in the study occurred between July of 2005 and December of 2007.  The data does not include accidents that took place between midnight and 6 a.m.  Every accident included at least one vehicle that needed to be towed from the scene and the dispatch of an emergency medical responder.

After defining the criteria above, the researchers reviewed information provided by drivers involved in the crashes that related to the amount of sleep that they had missed recently.  This analysis led to the following findings:

  • Drivers who slept less than 7 hours during the previous 24 encountered elevated crash risks.
  • Drivers who had slept at least one hour less than usual also faced a heightened crash risk.
  • Compared to drivers who had slept for at least 7 hours in the last 24 hours, those who reported:
    • Sleeping 6-7 hours faced a greater crash rate by a factor of 1.3
    • Sleeping 5-6 hours faced a greater crash rate by a factor of 1.9
    • Only sleeping 4-5 hours faced a heightened crash rate by a factor of 4.3
    • Getting less than 4 hours of sleep faced a heightened crash rate by a factor of 11.5

As such, people who had slept 4 hours or less were 11.5 times more likely to get into a car accident than those who had slept at least 7 hours.

In addition, an analysis of drivers involved in crashes who reported that they had slept less than they usually do led to the following results:

  • 1-2 hours less faced 1.3 times the crash rate
  • 2-3 hours less faced 3 times the crash rate
  • 3-4 hours less faced 2.1 times the crash rate
  • 4 or more hours less faced 10 times the crash rate

These accident rates were derived by comparing these motorists to drivers who reported sleeping their usual amount during the previous 24 hours.  Those interested in reading the entire study can find it here.

Sleep Deprivation Data

AAA likely completed this study because the organization understands that sleep deprivation is an enormous problem in the United States.  This problem is clearly affecting the safety of our roads.  Most experts agree that adults between the ages of 18 and 60 need at least 7 hours of sleep per night.  Gallup did a survey in 2013 that looked at the prevalence of this problem.  The study found that 40 percent of Americans do not get at least 7 hours of sleep per night.  The study also broke down the average number of hours of sleep per night by age group.  The data revealed the following percentages of people getting 6 hours of sleep or less per night:

  • 18-29 – 46 percent
  • 30-49 – 44 percent
  • 50-64 – 38 percent
  • 65 and older – 33 percent

Those who would like to read the entire survey can find it here.

Drowsy Driving Car Accident Statistics

All of this information ties together such that it makes perfect sense that the drowsy driving car accident statistics in the United States are troubling.  According to the National Sleep Foundation:

  • Sleep deprivation is a factor in approximately 100,000 car accidents in the United States every year.
  • 55 percent of drowsy driving accidents are caused by drivers younger than 25 years old.
  • Not sleeping for 18 consecutive hours is equivalent to having the legal limit of alcohol in your system.

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, estimates that at least 800 fatal crashes occur every year in the United States because of drowsy driving.  Other advocacy groups estimate the number to be much higher.

Ideas for Avoiding Drowsy Driving Car Accidents

Every San Diego car accident attorney has represented people who have been injured or who have lost loved ones because of drowsy driving.  Many of these cases would never have arisen if motorists had kept a few ideas in mind designed to help avoid the dangers of drowsy driving.  Some of these ideas include:

  • If you did not sleep enough the previous night, take a short – up to 20 minutes – nap before driving.
  • If you find yourself drowsy while driving, pull over and try to take a 20-minute nap.
  • Avoid driving between midnight and 6 a.m. if possible.
  • If all else fails, consume reasonable amounts of caffeine to remain more alert.
  • Consuming even one alcoholic drink can make you drowsy even if you are well below the legal limit for alcohol.  Therefore, avoid alcohol before driving.
  • If you’re going to be driving on a long trip, share the driving responsibilities.

How a San Diego Car Accident Attorney Can Help

You need to take immediate steps to protect and enforce your legal rights if you are badly injured in a crash that is caused by a drowsy driver.  If you are forced into this situation, seek the help of a San Diego car accident attorney who has been successfully standing up for the rights of those wrongfully harmed in collisions for several years.

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