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Lack Of Sleep Poses Significant Danger

A tired driver is more likely to make a mistake that leads to an accident. A tired doctor is more likely to harm a patient through medical malpractice. Unfortunately, as a nation, we are not getting enough sleep. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, drowsy driving is the cause of 40,000 injuries every year, as well as more than 1,500 driving fatalities. Improved sleep habits and a better understanding of sleep deficiencies could have a tremendous impact on the safety of U.S. roads.

According to the National Academy of Sciences, somewhere between fifty and seventy million Americans suffer from a chronic disorder of sleep and wakefulness. A 2011 poll found that more than sixty percent of Americans complain that they do not get enough rest during the week. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that nearly 5 percent of adults admitted to nodding off behind the wheel during the prior month.

Federal trucking regulations limit the amount of time a driver can operate a vehicle on a given day and during the work week. These limitations are intended to ensure that truck drivers have the opportunity to get sufficient rest in order to reduce the number of tired truck drivers on the road. The rules cannot, however, guarantee that the drivers use that time to sleep. Sleep disorders have spawned numerous studies and the extent of the problem is only now becoming apparent.

Before getting behind the wheel, it is important to be well-rested. Fatigue slows reflexes and harms a driver's ability to make good decisions. Tired driving is a dangerous practice and more needs to be done to confront this safety hazard.

Source: The New Yorker, "Up All Night," by Elizabeth Kolbert, 11 March 2013

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