Driving While Fatigued as Dangerous as Driving While Intoxicated, Study Shows

man yawning in the rear view mirror

Everyone agrees that drunk driving is a dangerous and all-too-often devastating or even fatal choice. But did you know that getting behind the wheel after a night of inadequate sleep – a form of distracted driving - can prove just as troublesome? That's according to a results of a recent study released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving lives through traffic safety research and education.

AAA researchers gathered data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's National Vehicle Crash Causation Survey and analyzed a representative sample of 7,234 drivers involved in 4,571 crashes. They found that getting less than the recommended seven hours of sleep in a 24-hour period gradually increases your chances of causing an automobile accident. In fact, missing just one to three hours quadruples the risk, and sleeping less than four hours boosts the risk by upward of 11.5 times.

So how prevalent is fatigued driving in the United States? According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than a third of adults nationwide aren't getting enough sleep. Considering that by some estimations, an average of 18.8 million drivers are on the country's roadways at any given time, that's far too many drivers potentially experiencing diminished mental and physical performance.

Despite 97 percent of those surveyed in the AAA study said they consider drowsy driving unacceptable and a serious threat to their safety, nearly a third admitted that in the last month they drove at least once while “so tired they had a hard time keeping their eyes open,” researchers wrote.

“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.”

If you or your family suffer injury or loss caused by someone driving while fatigued, get medical attention and call 877-798-7700 to speak with a distracted driving attorney with Gainesville's Schackow & Mercadante.