Most people know the importance of a good night’s sleep. Despite that, many people will try to accomplish tasks when they’ve had very little rest. The fast pace of modern life means that some people will push themselves beyond their reasonable limits, leading to potentially dangerous consequences.

If you’ve ever tried to drive after a night of poor sleep, you know how important it is to feel rested and alert when operating a vehicle. Still, far too many people in Pennsylvania feel they have no choice but to drive drowsy, and it can have disastrous results. A recent study conducted by the auto and travel company AAA found that drowsy driving may account for more accidents than experts previously believed.

The drowsy driving study

AAA examined in-vehicle camera footage of thousands of drivers, including more than 700 car accidents. Researchers looked at the three minutes prior to the occurrence of a crash, specifically focusing on drivers’ faces. Using scientific analysis, the researchers established if the drivers were drowsy.

The study concluded drowsiness was an aspect of nearly 10 percent of crashes. When the study specifically looked at crashes that resulted in serious damage to property, they found that almost 11 percent of those crashes involved a drowsy driver. Though these numbers may not seem high, they are much greater than previous rates determined by federal researchers.

Why are the rates so different?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conducted a study in 2017 that found that only 1.4 percent of police-reported crashes from 2011 to 2015 involved a sleepy driver. Experts believe that the reason for this disparity is that most drivers won’t admit to law enforcement that they were driving while drowsy. These rates add up to drowsy driving causing almost eight times the amount of car accidents than previously thought.

How important is a good night’s sleep?

Experts say that drivers should sleep for at least seven hours a night to avoid driving drowsy. Many people think they can get by on just four or five hours, but statistics show that that little sleep can quadruple the chance of having an auto accident. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that around 35 percent of drivers do not get the recommended amount of rest.

Some people who have lost loved ones to drowsy driving accidents say that a cultural shift needs to happen. They think that many Americans believe it’s impressive to do as much as possible with very little sleep. They want to see more education around the dangers of drowsy driving.

What if I have to drive after a bad night’s sleep?

Experts say that if you cannot get the proper amount of sleep, caffeine or cool air won’t help you stay awake. Taking a nap may help and not driving at times when you would normally sleep can be beneficial. Taking breaks while driving and avoiding any medicine than induces drowsiness can also help.

The bottom line is that people should not try to drive when they haven’t had a full night’s sleep. It can have disastrous consequences, not just affecting a drowsy driver but endangering other motorists and people that the driver may encounter. If you or someone you love has been the victim of a drowsy driver’s careless mistake, you know this fact all too well.