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Missing Just 1-2 Hours Sleep Nearly Doubles Crash Risk, AAA Warns

Missing just a few hours of sleep can drastically increase crash risk, AAA Foundation reports
Missing just a few hours of sleep can drastically increase crash risk, AAA Foundation reports Photo Credit: Pixabay

We all know the dangers of drowsy driving, but a new study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, a nonprofit research and education association, has shown that the hour or two of sleep you missed last night could have a bigger impact on your crash risk than previously thought.

The research report was recently reissued in advance of daylight savings time after its initial 2016 release. The lost hour of sleep associated with the time change can cause excessive drowsiness on the road.

“You cannot miss sleep and still expect to be able to safely function behind the wheel,” David Yang, executive director for the AAA Foundation, said in a statement.

The research reveals that a driver’s crash risk rises as the number of hours of lost sleep increases. The breakdown is as follows:

  • Six to seven hours of sleep: 1.3 times the crash risk
  • Five to six hours of sleep: 1.9 times the crash risk
  • Four to five hours of sleep: 4.3 times the crash risk
  • Fewer than four hours of sleep: 11.5 times the crash risk

Though there are some simple methods drivers often use to keep themselves awake, like rolling down the window or listening to music, they won’t work because they don’t actually improve your energy levels.

“Don’t be fooled, the only antidote for drowsiness is sleep,” William Van Tassel, manager of driver training for AAA, said in a statement. “Short term tactics like drinking coffee, singing, or rolling down the window will not work. Your body’s need for sleep will eventually override your brain’s attempts to stay awake.”

To decrease your risk of drowsy driving, try to travel at the times of the day when you’re normally awake. Avoiding heavy foods and medications that cause drowsiness can also help to keep you safe behind the wheel. For longer trips, the AAA Foundation recommends scheduling a break every two hours or 100 miles. When in doubt, a quick power nap (20 to 30 minutes) can give you the boost you need to stay alert.

For more information about the report, click here.

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