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Lack of Sleep and Collision Risk

woman unable to sleep in bed staring at alarm clock | Sleep and Collision RiskAn unprecedented study on the effects on sleep deprivation has been commissioned by the National Traffic Safety Administration Office of Behavioral Safety Research. The study will be conducted the National Association of State EMS Officials and the Department of Emergency Medicine at Carolinas HealthCare System. The groups will investigate how the sleep health and fatigue levels of EMS care providers effect their crew and patient safety.

Some of the most catastrophic accidents in recent history have been attributed to sleep deprivation. For example, before its accident, the crew of the Exxon Valdez had just worked a 22-hour shift loading oil onto their ship. At the time of the accident, the third mate was reportedly asleep at the helm and unable to return the vessel to the shipping lanes to avoid the disaster.

Sleep-deprived engineers working for longer than 13 hours, were at the heart of the disaster at Chernobyl. Twenty-eight people died during the first few weeks after the accident. The World Health Organization reports that the long-term implications of the incident may never be fully known.

Human error caused by sleep deprivation was blamed for the accident at Three Mile Island. According to the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission, sleep deprived workers failed to notice the loss of coolant that led to the reactor’s core overheating.

Previous studies have demonstrated that being awake for just 17 hours, is equivalent to having a blood alcohol content of 0.05. Staying awake for longer than 21 hours is equal to having a blood alcohol content of 0.08, impairing your judgement and reflexes substantially.

In addition to contributing to an increased risk of accidents, regular sleep deprivation, similar to that experienced by first responders and EMT personnel, has been associated with long-term health implications. Some of those implications include heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

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Sleep Deprivation and Car Accidents

The connection between sleep and collision risk seems like common sense, yet the number of people who drive while sleep deprived is staggering. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at any given time, an estimated one in 25 drivers self-reports having fallen asleep at the wheel within the past 30 days.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drowsy driving is blamed for approximately 72,000 accidents each year. Those accidents are responsible for 800 fatalities and an additional 44,000 injuries and nearly $12.5 billion in economic losses.

Some of the warning signs of drowsy driving include frequent blinking or yawning, lane drifting, and difficulty remembering the last few miles driven. If you experience any of these symptoms while driving, change drivers if possible, or pull over to rest.

Most Americans just don’t get enough sleep each night – and that becomes dangerous when they head out on the road. In fact, 60% of adults confessed to actually driving while tired at some point this year alone. Even worse, 33% reported that they actually fell asleep at the wheel. In order to prevent devastating car accidents from occurring, AAA recommends following these tips:

  • Aim for getting the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
  • If you are going to be driving for long periods of time – such as a long road trip – consider getting extra sleep the night before.
  • Take a break and stop every 100 miles to stretch your legs.
  • It is important to recognize the signs of sleepiness and stop immediately.
  • Never plan to work all day and drive all night.
  • Avoid driving after midnight when the body’s natural melatonin production increases and makes it more difficult to stay awake and alert.
  • Bring a friend along for the ride. Driving with a passenger can help you stay awake.
  • Drink caffeinated beverages to help you stay awake if you are drowsy. Remember, however, that caffeine is not a replacement for getting the right amount of sleep.
  • Roll down the window to let fresh air in the vehicle. Warm, stale air can increase the feeling of being drowsy.

Contact Our Denver Car Accident Lawyers

Denver Personal Injury Lawyers Fuicelli & Lee Outside of Their Office with StaffWhen you or someone you love is injured in a car accident, the steps you take immediately following your accident can significantly impact your ability to file a claim. Before reaching any settlement with the insurance company, give us a call. We will protect your rights to compensation and fight for you every step of the way. Contact the Denver car accident law firm of Fuicelli & Lee, PC, for a free case evaluation. You pay nothing unless you receive a financial settlement or award. Call our office at 303-355-7202 or fill out our confidential contact form.




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