Americans are not getting enough sleep and a new study finds drowsiness is leading to more accidents than previously thought.
A study from AAA found nearly 10 percent of crashes can be blamed on drowsy driving. The study also said four hours of sleep can have a similar effect to driving drunk.
“We are working long hours out here plowing the snow,” said Matt Kelly.
Kelly took a break to fill up his salt truck before he finished the rest of his shift on Thursday.
He said when he hits the road he is fully alert, which can be difficult while working long hours.
“The longest we can operate them is 15 hours and we’ve done that before,” Kelly said.
Those long shifts can take a huge toll on the body.
Studies show after 17 hours without sleep your body functions the way it would if you had drunk enough alcohol to raise your blood alcohol level to 0.05.
After working more than 20 hours, it is more like having a blood alcohol level of 0.1. The legal limit for being drunk is 0.08.
“There’s plenty of times people call 911 and say ‘I’m behind a drunk driver.’ We get out there, stop them and find out that they are drowsy,” Michigan State Police Lt. Jim Lang said.
Lang said people don’t even realize how tired they are. It is something he calls “microsleep.”
“A microsleep is where you actually nod off behind the wheel maybe four or five seconds and you know at 55 miles per hour, you can cover a football field,” Lang said.
If you feel yourself becoming tired or drowsy, Lang said it is best to just pull over and take a break.
He warns the consequences for drowsy driving are quite serious.
“When you’re violating the traffic laws, it’s the officer’s discretion whether he or she is going to write you a ticket. But you really got to look at the totality of the circumstances and make an educated decision on how you’re going to handle the enforcement,” Lang said.
Government figures show 35 percent of American drivers don’t get the recommended minimum of seven hours of sleep every night.
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