Drunken drivers won’t be the only revelers posing a hazard on the roads on New Year’s Eve. People who’ve stayed up past their bedtime can also be dangerous behind the wheel.
If you get up at 6 a.m. on New Year’s Eve and hit the road an hour after the clock tolls midnight, you’ll be up for 19 hours straight. No matter when you went to bed, that means you’ve slept only five hours in the past 24, making you as good as drunk, according to a recent study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
Researcher Brian Tefft examined records for more than 7,000 drivers involved in about 4,500 crashes serious enough to require towing and emergency medical services. In about half the cases, investigators deemed the drivers at fault. The other half served as a control group.
The study found that “drivers who have slept for between 4 and 5 hours in the past 24 hours have 4.3 times the crash rate of drivers who have slept for 7 hours or more.” That’s a risk about the same as having a blood alcohol concentration at or slightly above the U.S. legal limit of 0.08 percent. “The increase in crash rate associated with driving after less than 4 hours of sleep,” the study concluded, “is much greater.”
That’s consistent with results from laboratory experiments. Given computer tests of hand-eye coordination, people who’d been up for a relatively modest 17 hours straight did about as well as they did with a blood…
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