Don’t Drive Sleep Deprived

Debra Reynolds

Driving with a lack of sleep? You might need a accident attorneyAs we plan and prepare for holiday travel, drivers would benefit from putting a good, restful night’s sleep at the top of their to-do list for safe holiday travel. Sleep requirements are as important as no texting while driving and no drinking while driving. This is particularly scary for those with high school and college age children who stay up late studying and are on the road to school with little sleep or on their way home with less sleep following an exhaustive day at school. Add to the fact that some of these school-aged drivers are brand new behind the wheel with little experience handling a vehicle in perfect driving conditions.

Everyone is familiar with the “Don’t Drink and Drive” campaigns and laws. Even more recently are campaigns reminding us to “Don’t Text While Driving” where laws are still being developed. A third equally important awareness is beginning with “Don’t Drive Sleep Deprived”. Twenty-one percent of fatal crashes involved a sleep-deprived driver. (citing AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety Report). The report admonished that an individual cannot miss sleep and still expect to be able to safely function behind the wheel. The report notes these statistics when driving sleep deprived:

  • Driving on 4-5 hours of sleep is comparable to driving with a blood alcohol content at or above the legal limit.
  • Driving on 4-5 hours of sleep doubles your risk for a collision, and
  • Driving with less than 4 hours of sleep increased your risk for collision over 600%.

People who pride themselves on their ability to function on less sleep than the recommended seven-plus hours are placing their neighbors and the community at risk of serious injury or death. Unlike the President-elect Donald Trump’s declaration that “sleep is a waste of time,” in his book Think like a Billionaire, most folks in our communities do not have the luxury of having someone else drive for them and rely on themselves to drive to work or school.

For those with friends who are proud and “indestructible,” you might persuade them with the hard-economic numbers. Sleeplessness is costing the American economy billions of dollars according research “Why Sleep Matters: Quantifying Economic Costs of insufficient Sleep.”  To add to the research for the general physiologic and mental health benefits, the latest study, by the Rand Corporation, links sleep deprivation with a higher risk of mortality and productivity losses at work.

The Rand research indicates:

  • If individuals who slept under six hours started sleeping six to seven hours, then this could add $226.4 billion to the U.S. economy.
  • Sleep deprivation is costing the U.S. 1.2 million working days.
  • On an individual level, one who sleeps, on average, less than six hours per night has a 13 percent higher mortality risk than someone sleeping between seven and nine hours.

The Rand report provided the following recommendations to the following targeted groups:

For individuals, employers, and public authorities to improve sleep outcomes:

  • Set a consistent wake-up time. Individuals may achieve better sleep outcomes by making sure they wake up at a consistent time.
  • Limit the use of electronic devices before bedtime. Individuals may achieve better sleep outcomes minimizing the time spent using electronic devices and the overall amount of screen time, particularly shortly before bedtime. The use of screens in the evening may suppress people’s melatonin levels, a hormone which is crucial for the control of sleeping and waking cycles.
  • Limit the consumption of substances which may impair sleep quality. Sleep outcomes can be improved by avoiding or minimize the consumption of substances close to bedtime, including caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine.
  • Exercise. Physical activity has been demonstrated to be associated with improved sleep outcomes.

For Employers:

  • Recognize the importance of sleep and the employer’s role in its promotion. Employers should recognize the importance of sleep and the adverse outcomes both for individuals and businesses stemming from insufficient sleep. In some instances, this may require a cultural change in organizational thinking.
  • Provide facilities and amenities that help employees with sleep hygiene. Employers can put in place arrangements to support their staff’s daily routines with the aim of improving their sleep outcomes.
  • Discourage the extended use of electronic devices. Employers may signal limits on staff’s expected availability after working hours or by introducing policies limiting after-hours and out of-office communications.

For Public Authorities:

  • Support health professionals in providing sleep-related help. Awareness campaigns and wider support activities should be aimed at professionals so that they are best equipped to assist individuals suffering from sleep disorders.
  • Introduce later school starting times. Public authorities can help promote more effective schedules by introducing delayed school start.

Making our communities safer starts with awareness of each individual driver and requires a coalition of support between individuals, families, businesses, schools, and law enforcement to name a few. We all share the roadways to accomplish the goals of our everyday living. Please remember as you and your loved ones embark on your Christmas-time travels, to be well-rested and have a plan for another driver if you feel fatigued behind the wheel.