Get Some Rest: 17 Percent Of Fatal Crashes Involve Drowsy Driving

November 8, 2010
The next time you try to convince yourself and your passengers that it's okay to splash some water on your face and driving a few more hours, or chug an energy drink and go a few more exits, please think again. Driving while drowsy shouldn't ever be seen as some kind of personal challenge; it puts lives at risk.

And, as new data enforces, it should be seen as a threat on the level of drunk driving or cellphone distraction.

A new AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety paper suggests that dangerous drowsy-driving behaviors might be even more frequent than we'd perhaps like to admit. A surprising 41 percent admits to having "fallen asleep or nodded off" while driving at some point in the past.

That figures comes from a new paper, "The Prevalence and Impact of Drowsy Driving," in which the AAA authors also found, through a telephone survey conducted in spring of 2010, that 11 percent admitted to falling asleep behind the wheel in the past year and nearly four percent in the past month.

This time, the AAA Foundation collected the data as part of its 2010 Traffic Safety Culture Index, a national telephone survey of Americans 16 or older, over landlines and cellphones, in May and June of this year.

Back in 2002, a national survey conducted for NHTSA found that 37 percent of drivers reported having "fallen asleep or nodded off, even for a moment, while driving." One in four admitted to having driven, within the past month, in a condition in which they were "so sleepy that [they] had a hard time keeping [their] eyes open."

Overall, according to NHTSA figures, 730 motorists died in 2009 due to drowsy drivers. That's about two percent of all fatalities, but overall, an based on a closer analysis of the data, the agency estimates that 16.5 percent of fatal crashes involved a drowsy driver, with. By comparison, 32 percent of motor-vehicle crash fatalities in 2008 involved alcohol, and 31 percent

A separate naturalistic (real-world) study, conducted about five years ago, that installed cameras in 109 vehicles for 12 to 13 months also estimated that 22 percent of crashes and near-crashes involved drowsiness.

Please don't let yourself become a drowsy-driving statistic. Looking ahead to the long holiday travel weekend later this month, plan to make lots of stops (at least once every two hours), drink plenty of water, and don't eat any big, heavy meals on the road. Report drivers who are swerving, weaving, or visibly nodding off. And if you're going to hop into the car severely under-rested, perhaps a good night of sleep before hitting the road might not only help keep your family safe and sound.

[AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, via Consumer Reports]

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