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Study Finds that Even Slightly Too-Little Sleep Has Dangerous Effect on Drivers

Man driving drowsy

While you may not always get this much, you know that experts recommend eight hours of sleep a night for optimal brain function the following day. What you may not realize is just how harmful an effect getting less than eight hours can have on your reflexes and judgment. A recent study has shown that drivers who receive only one or two too few hours of sleep in a night are at a much higher risk for being involved in a serious car accident.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety sought to look at what effect various amounts of sleep had on the rate of accidents in which tired drivers were involved. The researchers used data gathered by the National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation survey. This study included data on crashes that involved at least one vehicle that had to be towed from the scene of the accident, and where an emergency vehicle had to be dispatched to the scene. For each crash, an investigator traveled to the scene and interviewed the drivers involved, asking them how much sleep they had gotten the night before, how much sleep they normally got, and whether their sleep schedule had recently changed. The investigators also recorded whether or not there was evidence of an error committed by one of the drivers that caused the crash, or if some other factor was responsible.

The AAA Foundation compared the amount of sleep received by drivers determined to have made an error that caused the crash, with the amount of sleep received by the drivers who were deemed not to be at fault. The study found that drivers who received less than seven hours’ sleep in the previous 24 hours, or drivers who slept for at least one hour less than they normally would, were at a greater risk of being involved in a crash. Even drivers who regularly got a short amount of sleep were at a greater risk of causing a crash; drivers who reported getting four to five hours’ sleep on a regular basis were involved in 5.4 times as many accidents as those who received 7+ hours’ sleep a night. When comparing their crash rate to drivers who slept at least seven hours the night before, drivers who had gotten between six and seven hours’ sleep had a 1.3-times-higher crash rate. When drivers got between four and five hours’ sleep, their crash rate was 4.3 times higher, and when they received less than four hours’ sleep, their crash rate was 11.5 times higher. This means that drivers who get behind the wheel having gotten only four or five hours’ sleep have an equivalently-high crash risk to someone who has a blood alcohol level that is slightly above the legal limit. If you believe the at-fault driver in an accident that caused you injuries may have been too drowsy to safely drive, this can serve as evidence of their liability for your injuries, and you should speak with an attorney as soon as possible about a potential claim for damages.

If you’ve been hurt in a crash and need help getting the money you deserve for your injuries, contact the seasoned and effective Los Angeles personal injury attorneys at Magaña, Cathcart & McCarthy for a consultation on your case, at 310-553-6630.

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