Drowsy Driving Is A Much Bigger Problem Than You Might Think

It is not easy to pinpoint drowsy driving as a cause for an accident because there is no physical test to determine sleepiness

How Widespread Is Drowsy Driving?

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) cites drowsiness as a causing factor in 100,000 police-reported crashes annually, involving 76,000 injuries and 1,500 deaths. This represents 1%-3% of all police-reported crashes and 4% of fatalities.

Public surveys, however, suggest an even higher rate of drowsy driving. In one survey, 55% of those answering said they had driven while drowsy in the past year. Over a lifetime, 23% said they had fallen asleep driving but had not crashed, 3% had fallen asleep and crashed, and 2% had crashed when driving while drowsy.

It is not easy to pinpoint drowsy driving as a cause for an accident because there is no physical test to determine sleepiness (like the Breathalyzer for detecting alcohol levels). Traffic officials are often not trained to look for sleep-related causes and, therefore, may attribute a sleep-related accident to speeding or intoxication. May states do not have a “fall asleep crash” code on their crash report forms, nor do they have a central database to track such causes.

There are usually no witnesses to a driver’s drowsiness prior to a crash, and drivers themselves don’t always realize they are drowsy before they doze off. In fact, drowsy drivers are often more alert after an accident or other sleep-related mistake, which can be misleading since you can’t tell how sleepy they were before the incident. When drowsiness is combined with alcohol, often the alcohol is listed as the only cause of an accident. After an accident, many drivers are also reluctant to tell police they were drowsy. With all of these factors working against awareness of drowsiness as a cause of car accidents, it is no wonder that official statistics are too low. Of the statistics that do exist., however, all show that drowsy driving accidents are increasing every year.

Drowsy drivers need to know more about good sleep habits in order to stop driving while they are sleepy. Sleep debt also needs to be recognized as a serious problem . It is currently overlooked because it is so common.

The ADC Sleep Disorders Center can help diagnose and treat drowsy sleeping. Many drivers who are required to maintain a CDL license are required to do sleep studies. Learn more about sleep studies at ADC by visiting http://www.adcsleepdisorders.com

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