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Short Sleep, Not Tiredness Key To Drowsy Driving

Craig McClellan

There are many behaviors that pose a danger on the roads. Drinking and driving and distracted driving have drawn significant attention and legislation over the years as safety experts worked to reduce car accidents caused by these dangerous behaviors. One large problem that has gone relatively unnoticed is drowsy driving. Federal data concerning fatal car accidents indicated that as many as 15 to 33 percent of deadly crashes are caused by tired drivers. A recent study suggests drivers who average less than six hours of sleep are the most likely to be guilty of drowsy driving, even if they feel well-rested. The study identified the six hour mark as the line that separates those at the highest risk for drowsy driving.

The study was conducted at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. It analyzed data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding drowsy driving and self-reported hours of sleep. Drivers who indicated that they get six hours of sleep per night suffered drowsy driving rates twice that of those who reported getting seven hours of sleep per night. Those who reported getting five hours of sleep per night were four times more likely to report driving drowsy than the seven hour sleepers.

Among those who were considered short sleepers, a number reported that the amount of sleep they got always left them sufficiently rested. The drivers who got five or six hours of sleep per night, yet reported that they got sufficient sleep, suffered drowsy driving rates three times that of those who got seven hours of sleep. The belief that they had had enough sleep was not enough to prevent incidents of drowsy driving.

Getting enough sleep is a challenge for many Americans. For some, the realities of work and family make uninterrupted sleep a near impossibility. Some studies have indicated that the increase in screen time many adults and children have experienced in recent years is contributing to sleep deprivation. Whatever the cause, insufficient sleep poses a serious risk when a person gets behind the wheel.

Source: Claims Journal, " Short Sleepers Most Likely to Be Drowsy Drivers," 2 October 2013