New statistics out on crash risk among sleep-deprived drivers

A SLEEP journal study has revealed some new statistics on the risk that drivers run when traveling drowsy. A U.S. Department of Transportation survey found that one in three adult drivers in Texas and across the nation sleep less than seven hours, though the usual recommendation is that everyone get between seven and nine hours. Drowsy driving is behind an estimated 7 percent of all motor vehicle crashes, including 16 percent of all fatal crashes.

The study shows that with every lost hour of sleep, the chances of an accident increase. Six hours of sleep makes drivers 1.6 times more likely to crash, while five and four hours raise that risk 1.9 and 2.9 times, respectively. Drivers who sleep fewer than four hours are 15.1 times more likely to crash and are the most liable to get in single-vehicle crashes.

Researchers relied on a previous study by the U.S. DoT, which analyzed 5,470 crashes and included both in-depth investigations and interviews with some of the drivers who caused the accidents. Their results complement those of previous studies, such as a AAA Foundation report that claimed that drivers quadruple their crash risk after only four hours of sleep. Another study focused on sleep apnea, stating that severe forms of it make an accident 123 percent more likely.

There is no other remedy for drowsy driving than adequate sleep, but drivers who neglect this and who cause a crash may be held liable for their actions. Victims might want to hire a lawyer who deals in motor vehicle accident claims. Once it's determined that victims are less than half to blame for the accident, they can pursue their claim with the defendant's auto insurance company. The lawyer may be able to handle all negotiations, and if a settlement cannot be agreed upon, the victim can consider litigation.

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