Drowsy driving responsible for almost 10% of crashes, study shows

(WMAR) - It's something that most drivers are guilty of, and now a study says it causes more crashes than originally anticipated. 

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, nine and a half percent of all crashes are caused by drowsy driving. Data was collected by researchers analyzing in-vehicle footage of drivers' faces from more than 700 crashes. 

This new data shows that the amount of crashes caused by drowsy driving is eight times higher than federal estimates indicated. 

 

“Drowsy driving is a bigger traffic safety issue than federal estimates show,” said Dr. David Yang, executive director for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “Drivers who don’t get enough sleep are putting everyone on the road at risk. By conducting an in-depth analysis using video of everyday drivers, we can now better assess if a driver was fatigued in the moments leading up to a crash.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention adds that 35 percent of U.S. drivers sleep less than the recommended seven hours of sleep daily. Though some are struggling to get the recommended sleep, a major problem with drowsy driving is how underreported it is. 

According to the AAA study, 96 percent of people say drowsy driving is a problem, but only 29 percent admitted to driving when they were so tired they had a hard time keeping their eyes open at some point in the last month. 

“Unfortunately, many drivers overestimate their ability to overcome fatigue and sleep deprivation and have adopted the 'I'm tired, but I can make it’ mentality, often to their own peril or the risk of their passengers or other road users,” said Ragina Cooper Averella, Manager of Public and Government Affairs at AAA Mid-Atlantic.  “Missing just two to three hours of sleep can more than quadruple your risk for a crash, which is the equivalent of driving drunk.”

If you ever have trouble keeping your eyes open, if you are drifting from your lane, or you don't remember the last few miles driven you should pull over.

“Short-term tactics like drinking coffee, blasting the radio, singing, rolling down the window will not cure drowsiness,” advised Averella. “Your body’s need for sleep will eventually override your brain’s attempts to stay awake, so the only antidote for drowsiness is sleep.”

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