Getting too little sleep at night? If so, your odds for a car crash are rising, research suggests.
Crash risk is highest if you get fewer than four hours of shuteye a night, scientists found. That’s like driving with a blood alcohol concentration roughly 1.5 times the legal limit, the researchers explained.
But even those who sleep fewer than seven hours a night are more likely to be in a crash — and to cause it, the study found.
Experts advise adults to get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. But surveys reveal that 20 percent of Americans fall short of this recommendation, usually sleeping less than seven hours, the study authors said. They noted that an estimated 7 percent of all U.S. car crashes and 16 percent of fatal collisions involve sleepy drivers.
The researchers examined data on 5,470 crashes, including driver interviews, from a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The results were published recently in the journal Sleep.
Drivers who reported sleeping less than four hours were more than 15 times likelier to be responsible for the car accident than those who got at least seven hours of sleep, the study found.
The sleep deprived were also at high risk for a single-car crash, which is more likely to result in injury or death. The researchers noted these drowsy drivers had about the same odds of crashing as a driver with a blood alcohol concentration roughly 1.5 times the legal limit.
Drivers who’d had four to six hours of sleep the night before were up to 2.9 times more likely to cause their accident than those who sacked out for seven to nine hours.
Folks who had changed their sleep or work schedule within the past week and those who had been driving three hours or more without stopping were also at higher risk for crashing, the study found.
Warning Signs of Drowsy Driving
Drowsy driving was responsible for more than 72,000 vehicle crashes in 2013, according to the most recent statistics available from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Drowsiness slows your reaction time, affects your ability to make good decisions and distracts from the road.
The CDC mentions these possible warning signs of drowsy driving:
- Yawning or blinking frequently.
- Difficulty remembering the past few miles driven.
- Missing your exit.
- Drifting from your lane.
- Going over a rumble strip on the side of the road.