This post is based on an article by Ashley Halsey III titled “Sleep-deprived drivers have plenty in common with drunk drivers, on page A2 of the 7 December 2016 edition of the Washington Post. Her article is based on a report by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety released 6 December. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about 35% of people get fewer than the needed seven hours of sleep, and 12% say that they sleep for five hours or less.
Previous research by the AAA Foundation found that 21% of fatal crashes involved a sleep-deprived driver. This new report uses data from the National Motor Vehicle’s Crash Causation Survey to asses how much driving ability decreases based on the lack of sleep. The executive director of the foundation, David Yang, says that the new research shows that a driver who has slept for less than five hours has a crash risk comparable to someone driving drunk. The report says that those who slept for less than 4 of the past 24 hours had an 11.5% higher risk of getting into a crash; drivers who slept 4-5 hours had a 4.3% higher risk; 5-7 hours had a 1.9% higher risk; and 6-7 hours had a 1.3% higher risk. The following caveat is added to these results: “The study may underestimate the risk of driving while sleep-deprived, because data on crashes that occurred between midnight and 6 a.m. were not available, and other studies have shown that the effects of sleep deprivation…are greatest during the morning hours.”
Tom Calcagni of AAA’s Mid-Atlantic Office said, “The crash risk associated with having slept less than 4 hours is comparable to the crash risk associated with a blood-alcohol content of roughly .12 to .15. The legal limit is .08.
So add driving while being sleepy to the other activities you should not do while driving: texting and talking on the phone regardless of whether your hands are free or not, and drunk driving.
The importance of sleep to health in general should not be underestimated. Our brains are very active while we sleep, consolidating memories and cleaning up junk in the brain. By failing to get enough sleep we are effectively damaging our brains. This damage might eventually lead to dementia and Alzheimer’s.
© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.