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The impact of drowsy driving

The rise in traffic deaths since 2015 has researchers scrambling for answers. Distracted driving and drunk driving are well known issues, but few problems have just one simple answer. Add another alliterative double-d term to your "do not do" list: drowsy driving.

A new study

A new AAA study finds that drivers who get fewer than seven hours of sleep per night are more likely to be in a crash. Twenty-one percent of fatal crashes involve sleep-deprived drivers but it's more significant than that. Those who sleep fewer than four hours in a night having a response time comparable to blowing a .12-.15 on a breathalyzer. The legal limit is .08.

Just like drunk drivers, individuals will say, "Those numbers don't apply to me. I'm different," citing a tolerance for long hours and an "I'll sleep when I'm dead" philosophy. However, the study thoroughly researched over 4,500 crashes to determine causation. The study actually did not include data from late night crashes between 12am and 6am, which is a period that is likely more impacted than others are by drowsy driving. In other words, AAA's findings are most likely conservative.

Driver awareness

The study is one of many to emphasize the dangers of getting behind the wheel without proper rest, but it should not be surprising. The foundational core of driver's education programs is defensive driving with eyes always on the road. Anything that can reduce awareness of surroundings will also impair driving ability.

Tips to boost awareness

Experts recommend that adults get seven to nine hours of sleep each night, which will proactively avoid the dangerous drowsy scenarios. For those who work long or irregular shifts, sleep is a unique challenge and should be monitored before getting behind the wheel.

Meanwhile, for those who are already traveling and spending long hours inside a vehicle, taking naps and regular breaks will keep the senses alert without resorting to stimulants like caffeine.

Colorado's winding mountain roads offer enough challenge for the fully rested and sober, especially now that winter is here. Do not add any risk when getting into the driver's seat that could put your own life in danger, in addition to anyone else out on the road.

The police report following a car accident should include an officer's recap and conversation with all drivers. How much sleep the drivers had the previous night is important information to include. As the evidence shows, getting too little sleep won't just make you grumpy. It could have deadly consequences.

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