Zuba & Associates, P.C.

Study shows car crashes are likelier with each hour of lost sleep

The U.S. Department of Transportation and other agencies state that one in three adult drivers fail to get seven hours of sleep a night. Drivers in Illinois should know that the recommended amount is between seven and nine and that lack of sleep can raise the risk of car accidents. Drowsy driving is to blame for an estimated 7 percent of all vehicle crashes in the U.S., which amounts to about 330,000 crashes every year.

Studies show that the risk for a crash occurring increases with every hour of sleep that's lost. SLEEP, a medical journal, has published a recent study showing that those who sleep six, five or four hours are 1.3, 1.9 and 2.9 times more likely to crash. Drivers who sleep fewer than four hours raise their risk a startling 15.1 times, and their behavior behind the wheel will be similar to those whose blood alcohol level is 1.5 times the legal limit.

Researchers also point out that driving for three hours without a break can lead to drowsiness as can changes that a person makes to his or her sleep schedule in the previous week. Being awake is not the same as being alert. Previous studies have linked inadequate sleep with sleep apnea, which increases the crash risk even when drivers don't feel that they are excessively tired.

Driving drowsy is a form of negligence, so those who are injured in a car crash and find out that the other driver was drowsy may have good grounds for a personal injury case. A lot depends on the degree to which the plaintiff contributed to the accident as this will lessen the amount to which he or she is eligible in damages. Auto insurance companies are aggressive in denying claims, too, so victims will want a lawyer to assist with negotiations or, as a last resort, litigation.

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