Drowsy driving is a common but often overlooked problem that is to blame for thousands of deaths each year in crashes that cost more than $100 billion. That’s the conclusion of the latest in a flurry of recent reports on the subject.
Drowsy driving plays a role in a much larger percentage of severe accidents than federal estimates had led us to believe, according to a study released in early February 2018 by the American Automobile Association’s (AAA) Foundation for Traffic Safety. The foundation reviewed dashboard video from 700 accidents and found that almost one in 10 (9.5 percent) of all crashes involved drowsy drivers, based on the amount of time their eyes were closed leading up to the crash. The survey was an “eye-opener,” as previous federal estimates suggested drowsiness contributed to only one or two percent of all crashes.
Overwhelming Evidence of the Dangers of Drowsy Driving
About 35 percent of all adult U.S. drivers sleep less than the recommended seven hours per-night, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And in another survey by the AAA Foundation in 2016, nearly all drivers (96 percent) said they view drowsy driving as a serious threat, but only around a third (29 percent) admitted that they had driven while drowsy during the previous month.
At least 72,000 crashes, 44,000 injuries, and over 800 deaths due to drowsy driving occurred during a recorded period of 2013-2014, according to The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Those at extreme risk of drowsy driving are shift workers, commercial truck and bus drivers, people with untreated sleep disorders or who take sleep medications, and anyone who just doesn’t get enough sleep, which experts agree is at least six hours uninterrupted sleep for healthy adults.
In light of recent surveys, what must now be viewed as a bellwether 2016 study underscores drowsy diving’s dangers. It was conducted by the Harvard Medical School’s Division of Sleep Medicine and Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s Division of Sleep Disorders. The driving habits of 16 night-shift workers were studied as they drove on a closed track. The researchers found that the volunteers’ driving was dangerously worse after work, when compared to their getting a full night’s sleep.
Other conclusions included:
- Almost 38 percent of the drives performed by the volunteers after a work shift ended in a near-crash; but there were no near-crash incidents after volunteers slept beforehand.
- Seven of the 16 drives performed after night-shift work had to be terminated early because the drivers could not adequately control their vehicle; but all tests were completed after subjects had slept at least five hours.
- Ocular (visual) measures of drowsiness were significantly higher in drivers who had just worked a night shift; but not those who had sufficient sleep.
How to Avoid Driving Drowsy
Here are some warning signs that you’re too drowsy to drive:
- You have trouble focusing your attention
- Your head nods and it’s hard keeping your eyes open
- Difficulty with short-term memory
- Slower reaction times
- You can’t stop yawning.
- You rub your eyes – a lot!
- You drift in your lane (or even into another).
If you’ve been hit by a fatigued or drowsy driver, Kaplan Lawyers PC are available to answer your legal questions arising from these accidents. Contact us through our contact form or call 516-399-2364.