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Drowsiness negatively affects driving skills

The government tracks drunk driving statistics every year, but studies show that drowsy driving may be just as dangerous. It may also be just as prevalent, although much of the research depends on drivers’ willingness to admit to the behavior because law enforcement may not be able to identify someone’s level of fatigue after a crash.

Here are some facts that studies have revealed about drowsy driving, impairment and crash risks:

Drowsiness risks

Seven hours seems to be the amount of sleep that most people need to drive safely. A study conducted by AAA indicates that getting only five or six hours of sleep doubles the chances that a driver will crash. Motorists who get between four and five hours see a 400% rise in the risk of a crash. A driver who slept only four hours out of the last 24 is 11.5 times more likely to crash than someone who slept for seven.

Symptoms of drowsiness

Drivers may not realize their level of drowsiness, and some fall asleep for four or five seconds at a time without even knowing it is happening. Under the influence of this “micro-sleep,” a driver may travel the length of a football field at highway speeds. 

Usually, people experience noticeable symptoms that they are too tired to drive. These include yawning, drifting out of the lane, nodding off and missing turns or road signs.

Indications of a drowsy driver

The National Safety Council reports that numbers taken from law enforcement crash data indicate roughly 100,000 accidents were drowsy driving-related. Without a chemical test that can reveal a person’s level of fatigue, police typically must look at the circumstances of the crash for clues.

Drowsy drivers have slower reaction times, display poor judgment and have difficulty focusing. A drowsy driver may nod off and crash at a high speed without ever swerving or release pressure on the gas and gradually drift to the side of the road. Many single-vehicle crashes are the result of drowsy driving.