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Lack of sleep an under appreciated factor in traffic fatalities


This article looks at how dangerous drowsy driving is and what role it has played in recent accidents.

Traffic fatalities are increasing in New Jersey and across the country. As NJ Advance Media reports, fatalities caused by traffic accidents in the state rose by eight percent last year based on preliminary police statistics. While much of the blame for the increase in fatalities has been attributed to an improving economy, lower gas prices, and distracted driving, one factor may not be getting the attention it deserves: drowsy driving. While drowsy driving isn’t often discussed with the same urgency as drunk or distracted driving is, a recent study suggests it is just as dangerous.

Drowsy vs. drunk driving

As NPR reports, a recent study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety looked into the effect drowsy driving has on traffic accidents. The study looked at data compiled from surveys of police-reported crashes from across the nation to determine whether there was a correlation between the amount of sleep a driver got and his or her likelihood of being involved in an accident.

The study found that drivers who got between five or six hours of sleep in a 24 hour period had a crash risk that was twice as high as those who get the recommended minimum of seven hours of sleep. For those who got just four to five hours of sleep, the crash risk was four times higher than normal, which is about the same crash risk that drunk drivers experience.

An under appreciated problem

Not only is it concerning just how dangerous drowsy driving can be, but also how prevalent it is. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for example, says that a third of Americans regularly go without adequate amounts of sleep. That suggests that many drivers are going without the sleep they need to stay focused. Safety experts recommend between seven and nine hours of sleep before operating a motor vehicle.

With overall traffic fatalities increasing, safety experts and the public are only beginning to appreciate the role that lack of sleep plays in those fatalities. Discussions surrounding traffic safety still tend to focus on impaired driving and distracted driving, although drowsiness is beginning to get the attention it deserves. In 2014, for example, the National Transportation Safety Board made driver fatigue one of its top safety priorities following the high-profile crash involving comedian Tracy Morgan.

Personal injury law

A car accident can leave one with physical and emotional scars, not to mention plenty of financial expenses. Hospital bills, therapy, medication, car repairs, and lost income can all quickly add up. A personal injury attorney may be able to help. By contacting an attorney today, accident victims will have an advocate on their side fighting to get them the compensation they may deserve.