For many years, the research into fatigued driving focused largely on long-haul truck drivers. While the trucking industry is certainly one group impacted by drowsy driving, the problem extends far wider. Americans get nearly an hour less sleep per night than they did in 1965. The impact of that is felt in many areas of life, not least of all on the roads. More than 100,000 accidents per year are caused by drowsy drivers, including an estimated 5,000 to 6,000 fatal car and truck accidents.
The causes of drowsy driving are numerous. Like drinking and driving, the unsafe conduct begins before the driver gets behind the wheel. In the case of sleep deprivation, the problem may occur several hours before driver starts the car. The drivers themselves often do not realize that they are really too tired to drive safely.
The National Transportation Safety Board held its first forum on drowsy driving this Tuesday. The forum covered several topics that will need to be addressed to reduce the frequency of drowsy driving. Employers should pay particular attention to the problem, as they are a frequent contributor to drowsy driving. Forcing workers to work long hours, asking workers to cover varying shifts and forcing drivers to take to the roads at the most unsafe times are all things employers should consider before setting policy.
The vast majority of people need 7 hours or more of sleep per night. If you get less than that and get behind the wheel, it is likely that your ability to drive is impaired. Even if you stay awake, your reactions will be slower and your decision-making ability will not be at its best. If you get far less than 7 hours in a night, the level of impairment rises quickly. The CDC reports that 24 hours awake leads to impairment greater than being over the legal limit for alcohol. It is simply unsafe to drive on that little sleep.
Source: CBS This Morning, “How drowsy is too drowsy to drive?” 21 October 2014