Driving Under the Influence of Exhaustion
Research out of the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicates that drowsy drivers are twice as likely as well-rested drivers to make critical driving errors that can lead to dangerous traffic accidents. What’s even more significant is that drivers don’t have to be nodding off behind the wheel to be dangerous on the road—simply driving with too few hours of sleep under one’s belt can significantly diminish a motorist’s ability to drive safely:
- Decreased alertness
- Increased reaction times
- Clouded judgment and impaired decision making
- Increased distraction
Sleepy Drivers: What to Look ForWhen you head out in your car, driving safely is naturally your top priority. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that not all drivers share your safety concerns. Fatigued drivers are out there, and they make our roadways more dangerous for everyone who travels on them. When it comes to drowsy driving, several distinctive warning signs include:
- A motorist who slowly drifts or who swerves in and out of the driving lane
- A motorist who erratically speeds up and slows down
- A motorist who speeds excessively
- A motorist who overcorrects or repeatedly corrects for driving errors
Fatigued Drivers: The StatisticsThe AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that drivers who short themselves one to two hours of the recommended seven hours of sleep during any given 24-hour stretch are almost twice as likely to be involved in car accidents. Further, this report relays that 35 percent of drivers in the United States get fewer than the recommended seven hours of shuteye each day—this includes 12 percent who get fewer than four hours of daily sleep. AAA reports that more than 20 percent of all fatal traffic accidents involve fatigued driving and that driving after missing two to three hours of sleep is tantamount to driving drunk. Even driving with fewer hours of sleep than is normal for you—no matter what that number is—can have significant negative effects on your ability to drive safely. These are grim statistics that highlight just how important adequate sleep is to safe driving.
Sleep: Getting It RightHow much sleep qualifies as enough sleep? That’s a great question, but luckily that same AAA report shares expert opinions—including those at the National Sleep Foundation and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine & Sleep Research Society—on the subject:
- Healthy adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep each day.
- Teens, young adults, those who are ill, and those who are recovering from a sleep deficit likely require more than seven to nine hours of sleep each day.