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Study: Drowsy driving just as dangerous as drunk driving

An alarming study has found the real risks of driving while drowsy, a behavior that kills hundreds of people every year.

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People in West Virginia are likely all too familiar with the risks of drinking alcohol and then getting behind the wheel. Serious and fatal accidents happen all too often as the result of a drunk driver. However, the risks associated with drowsy driving are just as severe, yet the behavior is often overlooked.

According to a recent study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, the likelihood of a crash while drowsy is nearly equal to the odds of crashing while drunk, depending on how much sleep the driver has gotten. Knowing what those limits are is essential to keeping people safe on the road.

By the numbers

The average adult should get between seven and nine hours of sleep a night. Of course, that is easier said than done, and many people receive less than that in a given 24-hour period.

The amount of sleep someone gets is directly linked to the risk of causing an accident, this recent study alleges. In the study, researchers pulled data from the National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for the time period between 2005 and 2007 that required an emergency medical dispatch.

Using assessment information, which included how much sleep the driver had and if the sleep schedule had recently been altered, the authors of the study then drew several conclusions, including the following:

  • Drivers who had sleep at least one or more hours less than they usually did were at an increased risk of crashing.
  • Drivers who had less than seven hours of sleep in 24 hours were at an elevated risk of crashing.
  • People who only sleep four to five hours had 5.4 times the odds of crashing when compared to people who get seven or more hours of sleep.

Drivers who slept four or more hours less than they usually did had a 10.2 increased chance of crashing. This, according to the foundation, is similar to the risk of driving with a blood alcohol concentration at or above the legal limit.

The real danger

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention points out that an alarming 800 people lost their lives in 2013 due to drowsy driving. The behavior also led to 44,000 injuries and 72,000 crashes that year.

People should be aware of the warning signs that they are simply too fatigued to drive. For example, heavy blinking and an inability to concentrate means the focus of the driver is not 100 percent on the road. An inability to remember the last few miles driven or drifting in and out of lanes is also a sign that it is time to pull over.

People who wish to learn more about this topic should speak with a personal injury attorney in West Virginia.