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Sleep deprived people more likely to have car crashes, study says

Not getting enough shut-eye each night can be detrimental to your health. It can also affect your ability to drive, according to a new report. 

» RELATED: Study: Sleep deprivation can make you feel lonely, socially distant

Researchers from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety recently conducted a study, published in the Sleep journal, to determine the relationship between sleep deprivation and motor vehicle crashes. 

“While the dangers of driving drowsy were already well known, this is the first peer-reviewed study to quantify the relationship between how much a driver has slept and his or her risk of being responsible for a crash,” the authors wrote in a statement.

For their assessment, they examined data from a previous trial administered by the United States Department of Transportation, which included information on 5,470 crashes, including interviews with the drivers involved.

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After analyzing the results, they found an estimated 7 percent of all motor vehicle crashes in America and 16 percent of fatal crashes involve driver drowsiness.

Upon further investigation, they discovered drivers who got fewer than four hours of sleep were 15 times more likely to cause a car collision, compared to those who received seven to nine hours. In fact, they compared the risk to that of drivers with a blood alcohol concentration roughly 1.5 times the legal limit.

“Being awake isn't the same as being alert. Falling asleep isn't the only risk,” coauthor Brian Tefft said in a statement. “Even if they manage to stay awake, sleep-deprived drivers are still at increased risk of making mistakes—like failing to notice something important, or misjudging a gap in traffic—which can have tragic consequences.”

The scientists also revealed drivers who slept less than four hours had an elevated risk of single-vehicle crashes, which are more likely to result in injury or death. Furthermore, those who had changed their sleep or work schedule in the past week and those who had been on the road for three hours or longer without taking a break also had an increased risk.

Want to learn more about the findings? Take a look at the full report here.

» RELATED: Fatal wrecks involving pedestrians up 16% in Georgia this year

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