Trying to Catch Up on Sleep is a Hazard on the Road

by | May 21, 2013 | News Articles

It’s not unheard of to have a late night out during the long weekend and then try to catch up on sleep the night before work. Researchers in Australia published an article,in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics, suggesting that this could be a method that puts people in motor vehicle accidents at night.

The study collected data from more than 20,000 drivers aged 17 to 24.

The results suggested that sleeping six hours or less a night had a 21 percent higher risk of having a motor vehicle accident than those who got more than six hours of sleep. In addition to that, those who got less sleep on the weekends had a 55 percent increased chance of having a single-car accident, where the car drifts or swerves off the road, they added.

“This is another challenge to adolescents that comes with lack of sleep,” said Dr. Flaura Winston, co-scientific director and founder of the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

“You have to be ready, body and mind, to drive,” she said. “If you are exhausted, you are neither ready body nor mind.”

“This is a safety concern,” she said. “If the teen doesn’t get enough sleep, then they are at increased risk for crashes, so parents need to step in.”

This isn’t just a concern for adolescence, but for young adults as well.

Most accidents (86 percent) happened between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m., the researchers noted.

“Sleeping six hours a night is enough to put young drivers at significant risk of having a car crash. With work, study and social commitments, especially on weekends, it is easy to miss out on the extra hours of sleep we need,” Martiniuk said in a statement.

Less sleep per night significantly increased the risk for crash for young drivers. Less sleep on weekend nights increased the risk for run-off-road crashes and crashes occurring in the late-night hours. This provides rationale for governments and health care providers to address sleep-related motor vehicle accidents among young drivers.

Before you sit at the wheel, make sure you’re well rested.


Martiniuk AC, Senserrick T, Lo S, et al. Sleep-Deprived Young Drivers and the Risk for Crash: The DRIVE Prospective Cohort Study. JAMA Pediatr. 2013;():1-8. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.1429.

Flaura Winston, M.D., PhD, co-scientific director and founder, Center for Injury Research and Prevention, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; May 20, 2013, JAMA Pediatrics, online

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