A recent study showed that motorists are driving while sleep-deprived without even knowing it. This increases the risk of car accidents in Indiana and nationwide, and increases the need for a solution to a long-standing problem.
Researchers from Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital concluded that two common problems cause nightly sleep deprivation. First, there is insufficient sleep duration where an adult did not have the recommended hours of sleep for the evening. The second cause is obstructive sleep apnea. This condition is difficulty with breathing, involving constant starting and stopping, that diminishes the length and quality of sleep.
Severe sleep apnea was connected to a 123 percent increase risk of a car accident compared to no sleep apnea. Sleeping only six hours each night was responsible for a 33 percent increase of an accident compared to having seven or eight hours of sleep.
Significantly, drivers who are frequently sleep-deprived do not consider themselves as being excessively fatigued and as being too impaired to drive. Failure to recognize this impairment increases their risk of causing a car crash.
This study involved 3,200 adults from 40 to 89 years-old. Almost 7 percent of these participants reported that they were involved in at least one vehicle accident in the previous year.
Although these participants did not consider themselves as being fatigued, their driving abilities were impaired. Researchers do not know why participants with serious sleep apnea or short sleep duration did not recognize their fatigue or sleepiness. Drinking coffee and other types of caffeinated beverages may have impacted the test results. However, researchers did not conclude that these beverages were consequential or seriously influential.
It has been well-known that sleep deprivation causes car accidents. However, this research is troubling because drivers who are unaware of this danger are not taking proper precautions and continue to drive in a dangerous condition. This could lead to innocent people being injured or killed in a car crash caused by a fatigued driver. When this happens, the victim or his or her family may want to explore whether they can pursue compensation.
Source: American Council on Science and Health, "Studying car crashes involving those sleep-deprived, & unaware of it," Erik Lief, April 5, 2018