Thursday, June 5, 2014

Drowsy Driving - Recent Studies Confirm Danger

At this point, it's probably safe to say that the dangers of drunk driving are common knowledge. And over the last several years, the danger of distracted driving (texting or talking on the phone while behind the wheel) has become more and more well-known as well, with some states passing laws requiring hands-free kits and other measures.
Now several studies, including those published by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) and the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration's (NHTSA) have found that drowsy driving may be every bit as dangerous as driving drunk.
Over 10% of accidents may be due to driving while tired
The VTTI conducted a 100-car naturalistic driving survey suggesting that up to 12% of accidents and near misses may be related to drivers hitting the road while tired. One of the more surprising findings to me as an experienced auto accident attorney was that there were more fatigue-related accidents during the day than at night.
This study supports previous findings by the NHTSA that tired drivers are as unsafe as drunk drivers, and are causing increasing numbers of auto accidents resulting in personal injuries. According to an MSNBC report, the majority of the accident information in the NHTSA study was based on police reports and self-reports by drivers after the crash.
Quick fixes, long term solutions
One persistent issue in reducing the numbers of fatigue-related accidents is that drivers simply don't take the issue seriously, often continuing to drive even when they know they are tired or fighting to stay awake.
Suggested quick fixes for the drowsy driving problem include consuming caffeine and taking naps. As a long-time auto accident attorney, I would recommend more permanent solutions, like altering your overall sleeping habits and making healthy lifestyle changes.
The problem is simple, "sleepiness leads to crashes because it impairs elements of human performance that are critical to safe driving." The report notes three main impairments that lead to the majority of sleep-related car accidents resulting in personal injuries: slower reaction time, reduced vigilance, and deficits in information processing.
Although any driver may succumb to sleepiness at the wheel, both studies found that males in their late teens and twenties are at the greatest risk, followed by shift workers with irregular work hours. Operating a motor vehicle when your mind and body are in less than perfect condition is always a bad idea - and always avoidable. To combat the problem, the NHTSA has issued 138 driver fatigue-related safety recommendations in the hope that a public campaign against the problem will help elevate awareness and reduce the number of drowsy driving accidents.

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