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Risk of Car Crashes Increases with Every Hour of Lost Sleep

December 14, 2016

Risk of Car Crashes Increases with Every Hour of Lost SleepDrivers who miss between one to two hours of the recommended seven hours of sleep nearly double their risk for a crash, according to new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

If you don’t get at least seven hours of sleep, your sleep deprivation could put you at risk for a collision when behind the wheel. The AAA Foundation found that the risk of being involved in a collision for sleep-deprived drivers increased steadily when compared to drivers who slept the recommended seven hours or more:

  • 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
  • Less than four hours of sleep: 11.5 times the crash risk

Sleep deprivation similar to driving drunk

Sleep deprivation can seriously impair your ability to drive. In fact, the study found that drivers who get less than 5 hours of sleep share the same crash risk as someone who is driving over the legal limit for alcohol.

“You cannot miss sleep and still expect to be able to safely function behind the wheel,” said Dr. David Yang, executive director for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “Our new research shows that a driver who has slept for less than five hours has a crash risk comparable to someone driving drunk.”

Risk of Car Crashes Increases with Every Hour of Lost Sleep

One in three adults sleep less than seven hours a day

The study also found that while 97 percent of drivers told the AAA Foundation they view drowsy driving as a completely unacceptable behaviour, nearly one in three admit that at least once in the past month they drove when they were so tired they had a hard time keeping their eyes open.

“Managing a healthy work-life balance can be difficult and far too often we sacrifice our sleep as a result,” said Jake Nelson, director of Traffic Safety Advocacy and Research for AAA. “Failing to maintain a healthy sleep schedule could mean putting yourself or others on the road at risk.”

As a result, the AAA urges drivers to prioritize getting plenty of sleep (at least seven hours) into their daily schedules.

Risk of Car Crashes Increases with Every Hour of Lost Sleep

Penalties for drowsy driving

While there appears to be no specific law that targets driving while fatigued in Canada, the way you drive while drowsy—even if you’re not involved in a collision—could catch the eye of the police. If you’re not able to stay in your lane, you run a red light or make an unsafe lane change you can end up with a ticket. Tickets of course come with a fine, but they also affect your auto insurance premiums as they stay on your driving record for at least three years.

If you’re involved a collision, the penalties for driving while fatigued are more serious. You could be charged with dangerous driving, careless driving or even criminal negligence.

Don’t risk it, get the sleep you need to drive safely behind the wheel.