The dangers of texting while driving gets more headlines and drunk driving remains one of the main causes of automobile accidents, but a large, new study helps explain why so many teens and young adults are involved in motor accidents.
Report after report shows it -- sleepy drivers cause car crashes. In the new study, researchers at The George Institute for Global Health in Sydney, Australia suggest that a long-term lack of sleep may not only cause immediate drowsiness at the wheel, but may affect a young driver’s judgment over time.
“Less sleep per night significantly increased the risk for crash for young drivers,” the researchers wrote in the American Medical Association journal JAMA Pediatrics.
Researchers studied the driving records of more than 19,000 young men and women, aged 17 to 24, who had just received their driver’s licenses. These new drivers had filled out questionnaires that included specific details about how many hours sleep they got each night in the previous month.
Then the researchers went through police records on road crashes for the next two years after the drivers were licensed.
“Those who reported sleeping six or fewer hours per night had an increased risk for crash compared with those who reported sleeping more than six hours,” they wrote. The people who slept the least were 21 percent more likely to have been involved in a crash than those who got more sleep, researchers found.
The AAA Foundation published a survey last year that found one in seven licensed drivers ages 16-24 admits they had fallen sleep at least once while driving in the past year and that 10 percent of all drivers say they’ve dozed off at the wheel.
One in six crashes with a fatality was caused by a drowsy driver, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).