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Driving On Less Than 5 Hours Sleep Poses Same Risk As Driving Drunk, AAA Study Finds

GARDEN CITY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Drivers, maybe it's time to think twice before hitting the road without some shut eye.

According to a new AAA study, crash risks are nearly doubled for drivers who get less than the recommended seven hours of sleep per night, with a nearly 400 percent increase for those who missed two to three hours of sleep.

"Not getting enough sleep is extremely dangerous for drivers," Robert Sinclair, Jr., manager of media relations for AAA Northeast said in a release on Tuesday. "Our new research shows that getting less than five hours sleep is the same as driving drunk."

For Karen Roberts, falling asleep at the wheel ended much worse.

"All it takes is a second, and you just nod off," Roberts said.

In 1988, Roberts was a 21-year-old nurse working a double shift on Christmas night. On the way home, she dozed off and smashed into another vehicle. The other driver had minor injuries, but Roberts was in the hospital for two months with a traumatic brain injury, CBS News' Weijia Jiang reported.

"I had to learn again how to walk and talk and feed myself and dress myself, and everything," Roberts said.

Though 97 percent of respondents said they viewed drowsy driving as "unacceptable" behavior, around one third of participants also admitted to taking part in the practice, saying they have driven while being so tired they "had a hard time keeping their eyes open," according to the study.

"This is really the first time we've understood that relationship to the degree that we do now," said Jake Nelson, AAA Director of Traffic Safety Advocacy and Research.

According to the AAA, symptoms of drowsy driving include having trouble keeping eyes open, shifting lanes, and not remembering parts of the trip. The AAA recommends drivers make sure they get enough sleep before hitting the road, and to schedule breaks when traveling long distances.

The AAA says that drivers who are sleepy account for nearly one in five fatal crashes every year.


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