Even Losing a Little Sleep Means Higher Crash Risk
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Even Losing a Little Sleep Means Higher Crash Risk

Car AccidentWhile the dangers of drowsy driving have been well documented, new research shows that missing even an hour or two of sleep a night can increase your risk for a motor vehicle crash. AAA’s new report finds that the more sleep deprivation drivers experience, the higher their accident risk. The alarming statistics indicate we need to do more to curb the drowsy driving problem in New York and across the country.

Sleep deprivation linked to auto accidents

The new report from AAA, which was released in December 2016, was the first to actually quantify how much sleep deprivation it takes to put drivers at a higher risk of an accident. Researchers looked at data on 7,234 drivers that were involved in 4,571 motor vehicle crashes between 2005 and 2007. All of the accidents in the study took place between 6:00 a.m. and midnight.

The data came from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey, which includes the number of hours drivers involved in these crashes had slept in the 24 hours prior to the incident. AAA used seven hours of sleep in a 24-hour period as the baseline for the minimum amount of sleep considered healthy. In February 2016, the CDC found that more than a third of all adults in the U.S. reported they routinely got less than seven hours of sleep each night, calling this a “public health problem.”

Just one hour lost impacts driver crash risk

The AAA study reported that adults that were even deprived of just one hour less than that seven-hour mark increases the risk of a motor vehicle crash by 1.3 percent. Drivers that lost two to three hours of sleep increased their crash risk by 1.9 percent. In fact, driving after just four to five hours of sleep had the same risks on the road as a driver that is legally intoxicated.

Drivers that got even less than four hours of sleep in a night increased their crash risk by even greater numbers. That category of motor vehicle operators increased their crash risk by as much as 11.5 percent. This risk was much higher than that for a drunk driver, with more than four times the crash risk of a driver that got behind the wheel after seven hours of shut-eye.

“You cannot miss sleep and still expect to safely function behind the wheel,” Dr. David Yang, executive director for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, stated in a press release on the AAA website. “Our new research shows that a driver that has slept less than five hours has a crash risk of someone driving drunk.”

The problem with drowsy driving

Drowsy driving is a significant concern in the U.S., as its prevalence cannot be ignored. According to the NHTSA, at least 100,000 police-reported crashes involve drowsy driving each year. As many as 6,000 fatal accidents annually may be caused by drowsy drivers.

If you are involved in an accident caused by a drowsy driver, you do have legal rights. However, without the proper representation, you may not be able to sufficiently protect those rights and get all the compensation you are entitled to for your injuries, lost wages and other losses. Now is the time to contact the experienced car accident attorneys at the Sanders Law Firm for a free evaluation of your case and answers to all of your legal questions.


  1. AAA, Acute Sleep Deprivation and Risk of Motor Vehicle Crash Involvement, https://www.aaafoundation.org/sites/default/files/AcuteSleepDeprivationCrashRisk.pdf

  2. National Sleep Foundation, Facts and Stats, http://drowsydriving.org/about/facts-and-stats/

  3. CDC, Drowsy Driving: Asleep at the Wheel, https://www.cdc.gov/features/dsdrowsydriving/

  4. AAA Newsroom, Missing 1-2 Hours of Sleep Doubles Crash Risk, http://newsroom.aaa.com/2016/12/missing-1-2-hours-sleep-doubles-crash-risk/

  5. CNN, Skipping Two Hours of Sleep may Double Your Crash Risk, Study Says, http://www.cnn.com/2016/12/06/health/sleep-driving-crash-risk/