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Accident risks jump for drivers with insufficient sleep

Chances are high that many drivers in Connecticut have not gotten a good night's sleep. Results from multiple surveys show that about one-third of people fail to sleep at least seven hours each night. Health experts recommend that adults sleep for seven to nine hours a night. Sleep deprivation impedes people's ability to operate a vehicle safely. Drowsy drivers contribute to about 7 percent of all motor vehicle accidents. Among fatal crashes, as many as 16 percent of them arise from sleep-deprived drivers.

To investigate the dangers of driver fatigue, a new study analyzed 5,470 accidents and interviewed many of the drivers involved. Compared to people who got the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep, drivers who only got six hours of sleep caused crashes 1.3 times more often. When sleep dipped to five hours, drivers experienced a crash risk 1.9 times higher than the properly rested group.

At four hours of sleep, the dangers rose dramatically to 2.9 times the risk of the well-rested drivers. People with under four hours of sleep became as statistically dangerous as people with blood alcohol levels 1.5 times the legal limit.

People who suffer from severe sleep apnea also have a 123 percent higher risk of car accidents even if they try to get enough sleep. This condition obstructs breathing during sleep and afflicts approximately 22 million people.

Someone too tired to drive could be liable for the financial damages of an accident victim. An attorney may help a person deal with an insurance company or file a lawsuit after an accident caused by a negligent driver. An attorney's familiarity with personal injury law and car accidents might improve the chances of a person collecting an adequate settlement to pay medical expenses, recoup lost income and compensate for pain and suffering.

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