Drowsy Driving Update 2014

National Sleep Foundation’s Drowsy Driving Prevention Week runs November 2-9, 2014. Highlighting the need for drivers and safety teams to focus on drowsy driving, the AAA AAFTS Drowsy DrivingFoundation for Traffic Safety has issued a new research report which states that 21% (one in five) fatal crashes involved driver fatigue. Further, the report summary indicates that:

  • 6% of all crashes in which a vehicle was towed from the scene,
  • 7% of crashes in which a person received treatment for injuries sustained in the crash,
  • 13% of crashes in which a person was hospitalized, and
  • 21% of crashes in which a person was killed involved a drowsy driver.

How did we miss the scope of these crashes?  AAAFTS suggests that National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) statistics “are widely regarded as substantial underestimates of the true magnitude of the problem.”  Why?

The statistics reported by the NHTSA are based on data compiled from reports completed by police officers investigating the scenes of motor vehicle crashes. However, unlike impairment by alcohol, impairment by sleepiness, drowsiness, or fatigue does not leave behind physical evidence, and it may be difficult or impossible for the police to ascertain in the event that a driver is reluctant to
admit to the police that he or she had fallen asleep, if the driver does not realize or remember that his or her performance was impaired due to fatigue, or if the driver is
incapacitated or deceased and thus unable to convey information regarding his level of alertness prior to the crash. This inherent limitation is further compounded by the design of the forms that police officers complete when investigating crashes, which in many cases obfuscate the distinction between whether a driver was known not to have been asleep or fatigued versus whether a driver’s level of alertness or fatigue was unknown.

Based on these concerns, many experts have concluded that the NHTSA data was merely indicating the tip of a large iceberg of hidden or mis-coded results.  Compounding this opinion were results from other studies, including naturalistic (camera in cabin, continuously recording) studies showing a much higher rate of drowsy driving related events.

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Of course, this study makes several assumptions and may not present a perfect picture of drowsy driving in the USA.  However, it is reasonable to assertively promote tactics to avoid drowsy driving situations based on the following:

  • drivers are unable to prevent micronapping from occuring – the fatigued body will overpower their mind’s alertness
  • Poor diet, lack of exercise, frequently interrupted sleep periods, lack of consistent sleep cycles all contribute to weak health and drowsiness.
  • Many “home remedies” for drowsy driving may work for a few minutes, but can’t be relied upon for a real solution — many drivers who’ve turned on the air conditioning or turned up the radio still had crashes happen.

Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is quoted as saying;

Despite the fact that 95 percent of Americans deem it ‘unacceptable’ to drive when they are so tired that they have a hard time keeping their eyes open, more than 28 percent admit to doing so in the last month,”…“Like other impairments, driving while drowsy is not without risk.”

AAA Oregon/Idaho Public Affairs Director Marie Dodds sums it up nicely;

Unfortunately many drivers underestimate the risk of driving while tired, and overestimate their ability to deal with it.

Find other articles on drowsy driving at https://safetyismygoal.wordpress.com/?s=drowsy%20driving

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