Driving after 5 hours of sleep is akin to drunken driving - study

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 DANGER ON OUR ROADS: Motorists are urged not to drive after too little sleep as it is comparable to drinking and driving according to a study. Image: Shutterstock ~ Shutterstock

Cape Town - Here's some important information before you embark on a holiday road trip, make sure you rest up because according to a recent report, the risk of you being involved in a car accident spikes with every hour of lost sleep.

According to Bianca de Beer, spokesperson for Dialdirect Insurance: "The report released this month by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety states that the less sleep the person behind the wheel gets, the higher the accident rate. For example, motorists in the study who got only four or five hours of sleep had four times the accident rate - similar to what's seen amongst drunk drivers.”

The study also found that drivers who caused the accident were more than 10 times as likely to have slept for less than four hours, and that drivers who slept even as little as one hour less than the amount they would normally sleep during a 24 hour period, had significantly increased accident rates.

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“Previous research by the AAA Foundation found that about 20% of fatal accidents in the US involve a drowsy driver. In South Africa, statistics are just as severe.  The bottom line is that one in five fatal accidents could be avoided when people get sufficient rest,” says de Beer. 

7 practical tips avoid a holiday disaster due to fatigue:

• Get at least 7 hours of quality sleep before you leave on your journey.

• Most accidents caused by a sleep deprived driver occur between midnight and 6:00am, the natural time for sleep. If you are planning on driving during these hours, and if you start yawning, begin to lose concentration or if you have trouble keeping your eyes open - take a break. Do not continue driving until you feel refreshed and awake.  

• Energy drinks or caffeine can assist in reviving tired drivers.  However, regular coffee drinkers are warned that it can also have the opposite effect and cause fatigue and impaired coordination.  

• A study conducted by the Loughborough Sleep Research Centre concluded that contrary to popular belief, loud music, chewing gum, fresh air or a good stretch will not help relieve tiredness while driving.  Do not rely on these myths to keep you awake!

• When driving long distance, plan your trip to incorporate a 20 minute break every two hours. There are plenty of petrol station rest stops along the major routes.

• Share the driving with another responsible driver.

• Wear good quality sunglasses to avoid your eyes getting tired.

De Beer concludes: “Don’t underestimate the impact that fatigue has on your driving ability. Trying to ‘push through it’ could end up costing you much more than just a car, so make a good night’s sleep a top priority for your road trip this year.”