Get some rest, NJ — You’re driving drowsy, and people are dying
Did you get seven hours of sleep last night? If not, your chances of crashing while behind the wheel could be much greater today.
Using crash data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety quantifies how much drivers are putting their lives at risk with each hour of sleep they forego.
It's believed that 35 percent of U.S. drivers sleep less than the recommended seven hours in a 24-hour period. According to AAA, if you shave off just an hour or two of sleep, your crash risk nearly doubles. Get just four to five hours of Z's, and the risk quadruples. And the risk is more than 11 times greater for drivers on less than four hours of sleep - comparable to the risk associated with someone driving drunk.
The findings are based on a sample of 7,234 drivers involved in 4,571 crashes as seen in the NHTSA's National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey.
“Managing a healthy work-life balance can be difficult and far too often we sacrifice our sleep as a result,” said Jake Nelson, director of traffic safety advocacy and research for AAA. “Failing to maintain a healthy sleep schedule could mean putting yourself or others on the road at risk.”
New Jersey State Police statistics from 2015 find that in four fatal crashes on Garden State roads, the driver fell asleep at the wheel.
In 2014. comedian Tracy Morgan was severely injured and his friend killed on the Turnpike when a Walmart truck driver, who admitted in court to being tired behind the wheel, crashed into their hired limousine.
"It's not just that you fall asleep and lose control of your vehicle," Cathleen Lewis, of AAA Northeast, told New Jersey 101.5. "You are too tired to maintain your lane. Your reaction times are slow. You get tunnel vision."
While 97 percent of motorists told AAA drowsy driving is a completely unacceptable behavior, nearly a third admitted that at least once in the past month they drove while struggling to keep their eyes open.
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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org.