Road Traffic Safety

Sleep-Deprived Drivers Might As Well Be Drunk

Driving after missing even two hours of the recommended seven hours of sleep can make your risk of a crash comparable to someone over the legal limit for alcohol.

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Why It's Important

It has been a marathon road trip, and you're ready to get home to your comfy bed and lonesome pet. Even though your caffeine high is wearing off and your mom told you to stop at a nearby hotel, you decide to power through. Sparky is waiting, after all! Your eyes start to drift when you're suddenly awakened by the glow of oncoming traffic. Sound terrifying? It should.

One in five car accidents involve a sleepy driver. In 2016, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety decided to dive deeper into the staggering statistics of drowsy driving to find out exactly how much sleep you need to miss in order to be a crash risk. After examining 4,571 crashes caused by drowsy driving, they determined that driving with four to five hours of sleep (as compared with the recommended seven hours) is comparable to driving with a blood alcohol content at or above the legal limit. The risk of driving on less than four hours of sleep is even greater. So while you may vow to never drive while intoxicated, know that driving while sleep deprived can be equally as dangerous.

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Why People Are Talking About It

You don't have to go on a long road trip to experience drowsiness while driving. For example, you might have a late night at the office, then face a long commute home. According to AAA, signs that you're driving on too little sleep include trouble keeping your eyes open, drifting from your lane, and not remembering the last few miles you just drove. Still, more than half of drivers who fell asleep at the wheel didn't see any warning signs beforehand. To keep yourself safe, make getting seven hours of sleep a priority every night and try to travel at times when you're normally wide awake. On longer car trips, you should schedule breaks every two hours, avoid heavy meals, travel with a driving buddy, and avoid drowsy medications. The best defense is a good offense!

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Editors' Picks: Our Favorite Videos On The Importance Of Sleep

New AAA Study Highlights Risks Of Drowsy Driving

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