Study: Sleep deprivation causing more road fatalities

Drunk driving is an oft-cited dangerous behavior on the road, but if you’re regularly getting behind the wheel without proper rest, you could be “overestimating your ability to deal” with the effects of sleep deprivation on your driving.

A new study indicates that as many as one out of six, or almost 17%, of fatal car accidents may stem from drivers that haven’t been getting enough sleep. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety carried out the study, which polled 2,000 Americans via phone. Results indicated that instances of sleepiness-induced injury were alarmingly common:

The report found that two out of five (41 percent) survey respondents admitted to falling asleep or nodding off while driving at some point in their lives. One in 10 acknowledged doing so in the past year. More than a quarter (27 percent) of those surveyed admitted that in the previous month they drove despite being so tired that they had difficulty keeping their eyes open.

Dr. Thomas Balkin spoke to the NYT about the creeping effects of sleep deprivation, saying that crashes related to the condition tended to be severe because people are generally poor at fending off the onset of sleep:

“People think that by rolling down the window or turning up the radio they will be able to offset drowsiness and make it to where they are going,” he said. “But they lose touch. When we’re sleepy, we know we’re sleepy, but the process of actually falling asleep, we’re not good at identifying that.”

The AAA recommends a minimum of six hours of sleep before long periods driving.