Health experts recommend that adults should get between 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night, however, national statistics show that less than 35 percent of us actually get even 7 hours of sleep and 12 percent of American adults get less than 5 hours of sleep every night. That lack of sleep negatively impacts everything we do, including driving.
A recent study conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety drives home just how dangerous drowsy driving can be. The study quantifies the relationship between specific measures of recent sleep and the risk of being in a crash.
The research team gathered data from car crashes which had occurred between 6:00 am through 11:59 pm during a two-year period. Each of the crashes had at least one passenger vehicle which was towed from the scene, and had required emergency responders to be dispatched to the scene.
The team then compared the sleep time for different crash drivers to drivers who had at least 7 hours of sleep in the prior 24-hour period before the crash. They found that:
- Drivers with 6 to 7 hours of sleep had 1.3 times the crash rate;
- Drivers with 5 to 6 hours of sleep had 1.9 times the crash rate;
- Drivers with 4 to 5 hours of sleep had 4.3 times the crash rate; and
- Drivers with less than 4 hours of sleep had 11.5 times the crash rate.
According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there are at least 100,000 drowsy driving crashes each year. These crashes kill approximately 1,500 people and seriously injury more than 70,000. The NHTSA says these figures are very conservative and that the numbers are most likely much higher due to the difficulty of determining whether or not driver fatigue caused the crash. This is because one of the only ways to make that determination is by self-reporting of the driver. Many of those drivers do not make that admission. It is estimated that there are approximately one million crashes each year that are caused by driver lapses or inattention and a great many of those crashes are suspected drowsy driver crashes.
If you have been injured in a crash caused by a driver who you suspect was sleep-deprived, contact a seasoned Virginia personal injury attorney to see what legal recourse you may have against the driver for your injuries.