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Are you getting enough sleep before getting behind the wheel?

According to the Mayo Clinic, adults need between seven to eight hours of sleep each night. Not getting enough sleep has been linked to numerous short-term and long-term health problems. Additionally, insufficient amounts of sleep have been proven to adversely affect judgment and reaction time and thereby increase the likelihood that an individual will either cause or be involved in a workplace or motor vehicle accident.

Federal agencies like the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have estimated that drowsy driving is the cause of more than 100,000 traffic accidents, 40,000 injuries and 1,550 fatalities each year. However, a recently study released by the American Automobile Association estimates that these numbers are actually much higher.

According to AAA's Traffic Safety Culture Index study, researchers estimate that some 328,000 crashes each year are caused by drivers who are fatigued. The study also estimates that some 109,000 injuries and 6,400 fatalities can be directly linked to drowsy driving, a number that equates to 21 percent of annual motor vehicle fatalities.

A staggering thirty-seven percent of survey respondents admitted to dozing off behind the wheel at some point in their lives. A drowsy driver doesn't, however, need to actually fall asleep while driving to be considered a risk to public safety.

Being fatigued negatively affects a driver's ability to pay attention, process information and react quickly. Given these adverse effects of driving while overly tired, it makes sense that more than 50 percent of drowsy driving-related motor vehicle accidents "involve drivers drifting out of their lanes or off the road."

The authors of the AAA study advise drivers to pay attention to signs that they may be too tired to drive. Additionally, drivers would be wise to ensure they get sufficient amounts of sleep, avoid taking any type of medication that may increase drowsiness and take frequent breaks while driving long distances.

Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "Study: Drowsy driving more of a threat than previously believed," Nov. 8, 2014

American Automobile Association, "Drowsy Driving," 2014

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