You’ve heard of beauty sleep, but what about safety sleep?
I suggest we keep that term top of mind as we begin a new year and consider new resolutions to commit to.
It’s no secret that driver fatigue is a dangerous condition that leads to many crashes, but a new study sheds more light on the degree to which driving safety is impacted by the number of hours we sleep.
According to the new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, drivers who miss one to two hours of the recommended seven hours of sleep nearly double their risk for a crash.
The foundation’s report, Acute Sleep Deprivation and Risk of Motor Vehicle Crash Involvement, reveals that drivers who miss two to three hours of sleep in a 24-hour period more than quadruple their risk of a crash compared to drivers who get the recommended seven hours. That’s the same crash risk that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) links to driving over the legal limit for alcohol.
The AAA Foundation report found that in a 24-hour period, crash risk for sleep-deprived drivers increased steadily when compared to drivers who slept the recommended seven hours or more:
• Six to seven hours of sleep: 1.3 times the crash risk
• Five to six hours of sleep: 1.9 times the crash risk
• Four to five hours of sleep: 4.3 times the crash risk
• Less than four hours of sleep: 11.5 times the crash risk
The report is based on analysis of a representative sample of 7,234 drivers involved in 4,571 crashes. The data are from NHTSA’s National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey.
You can read the full AAA Foundation report here.
Obviously, these findings are significant for school bus drivers, but they’re also applicable to anyone who drives.
As a manager, it can be difficult to identify a driver who might be impaired by fatigue. Accordingly, it is a matter of personal responsibility for all drivers to be sure to get enough sleep.
Former NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind noted in a recent meeting on school bus safety that fatigue isn’t necessarily manifested in nodding off. A less-apparent — but still dangerous — consequence of fatigue is delayed reaction time.
Rosekind, who left NHTSA at the end of President Obama’s term, also called on the transportation officials in the meeting to be good role models in their own safety habits. One example he gave is putting one’s cell phone away and out of reach while driving.
Another way that school transportation directors can set a good example for their school bus drivers is to pledge to get at least seven hours of sleep every night (and actually do it), and then encourage the drivers to do the same.
The results may include increased alertness at the wheel, more productivity in the office, and better health in general. Perhaps there will even be some “beauty sleep” benefits after all.