How much sleep do you need? A comprehensive review of fatigue related impairment and the capacity to work or drive safely

In developed countries, deaths attributable to driving or working while intoxicated have steadily declined over recent decades. In part, this has been due to (a) public education programs about the risks and (b) the deterrence value associated with penalties and prosecutions based on an individual being ‘deemed impaired’ if they exceed a proscribed level of blood alcohol or drug concentration while driving/working. In contrast, the relative proportion of fatigue-related accidents have remained stubbornly high despite significant public and workplace education. As such, it may be useful to introduce the legal principle of ‘deemed impaired’ with respect to fatigue and/or sleep loss. A comprehensive review of the impairment and accident literature was performed, including 44 relevant publications. Findings from this review suggests that a driver or worker might reasonably be ‘deemed impaired’ once the amount of sleep falls below five hours in the prior 24. Building on the legal principles first outlined in recent New Jersey legislation (Maggie’s Law), this review argues that an individual can reasonably be ‘deemed impaired’ based on prior sleep wake behavior. In Maggie’s Law, a driver can be indirectly ‘deemed impaired’ if they have not slept in the prior 24 h. Based on the extant literature, the authors argue that, relative to drug and alcohol intoxication, this may be overly conservative. While roadside measurement of fatigue and prior sleep-wake behavior is not yet possible, the authors suggest that public education programs should provide specific guidance on the amount of sleep required and that post-accident forensic examination of prior sleep wake behaviors may help the community to determine unsafe behaviors and liability more objectively than is currently the case.


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Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01764595
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Dec 30 2020 3:34PM