Motorists in North Carolina and around the country who get behind the wheel after only four or five hours of sleep have approximately the same chances of being involved in a collision as drunk drivers, according to a report from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety released on Dec. 6. This level of fatigue makes a crash four times more likely according to the research group, and even motorists who sleep for five or six hours before driving are twice as likely to be involved in an accident.
The AAA report was based on survey data provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Motorists involved in serious accidents were asked how long they had slept the night before, and researchers were able to link rising fatigue levels with higher crash risks. The research is important because drowsy driving accidents often occur at high speeds and result in serious injuries to the driver’s passengers and to occupants of other vehicles.
About one in five fatal accidents involves a fatigued driver according to federal crash data, but motorists can improve their chances of reaching their destinations safely by taking naps before driving when they have failed to sleep for at least seven hours. Lack of sleep has also been linked with depression and weight gain, and research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that about a third of Americans do not sleep enough.
Drowsy drivers can sometimes present a problem to personal injury attorneys seeking compensation for car accident victims. While intoxicated motorists are generally fairly easy for police officers to identify, fatigued drivers may seem alert and coherent after being shaken up by a crash. In situations where drivers have failed to take evasive action prior to a collision, attorneys may scrutinize cellphone records, social media posts or the information captured by vehicle data recorders for indications of distraction or fatigue.