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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Drowsy Driving Week – November 6-12, 2011

No, it’s not the week where we want to drive drowsy — it’s to raise awareness of the extent of the issue and the need to educate drivers of what they can do to prevent driving while drowsy.

While most people have come to recognize the dangers of “drinking and driving“, “texting while driving” or “driving without the use of a seatbelt“, many still consider “driving while drowsy” to be a relatively minor safety concern. People think that they can tell when they’re about to fall asleep and can safely get home before a problem occurs. These drowsy drivers are at much greater risk to be injured in a crash than they realize.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that drowsy driving results in 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries and more than 100,000 accidents each year.

In a recent AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety (AAAFTS) survey, nearly nine out of every ten police officers reported they had stopped a driver who they believed was drunk, but turned out to be drowsy.  The AAAFTS survey also indicated that:

  • Younger drivers age 16-24 were nearly twice as likely to be involved in a drowsy driving crash as drivers age 40-59,
  • About 57 percent of drowsy driving crashes involved the driver drifting into other lanes or even off the road.
  • More than half (55%) of those drivers who reported having fallen asleep while driving in the past year said that it occurred on a high-speed divided highway.
  • More than half (59%) of those drivers who reported having fallen asleep while driving in the past year said they had been driving for less than an hour before falling asleep; only one in five reported they had been driving for three hours or longer.

Drowsy driving is operating a motor vehicle while sleepy, fatigued or “tired/exhausted”.  Sleepiness and driving is a dangerous combination. Most people are aware of the dangers of drinking and driving but don’t realize that drowsy driving can be just as fatal. Like alcohol, sleepiness slows reaction time, decreases awareness, impairs judgment and increases your risk of crashing.

The potential to fall asleep behind the wheel can’t be judged by the operator – they simply fall asleep and typically lose control of their vehicle.

This month’s Ten-Minute Training Topic covers what drivers can do to recognize the warning signs, prevent drowsy driving and improve their health/wellness in the process. 

The Ten-Minute Training Topic series is a monthly driver training package on a specific, focused issue like Drowsy Driving, Parking Lot Dangers, Improper Passing, etc.  The program includes driver handouts, manager’s supplemental reports (with relevant news stories, links to web site resources, etc.) and links to A-V presentations for the drivers.  The program materials can be used as payroll stuffers, classroom training sessions, or tailgate talks.  Drivers can review the materials from remote locations electronically.

We encourage managers to review any existing company policies that relate to the Ten-Minute Training Topic in advance of its distribution to drivers.  This provides an opportunity to make any needed enhancements, prepare for anticipated questions and check to make sure that your policy and the Ten-Minute Training Topic are in agreement.

While some companies may have developed “policies” concerning how drivers should deal with drowsy driving and “fatigue”, others may want to consider the following questions:

  • Are your drivers aware of your specific company expectations regarding driving while tired or “drowsy”?
  • Are there any specific instructions you want them to follow regarding breaks, use of rest areas or other procedures when “at-risk” of falling asleep at the wheel?
  • Are there any circumstances where the driver should not attempt to drive while tired?
  • Has your company developed or participated in any workplace wellness programs that might help address sleep disorders, diet and other contributing factors?
  • Are there pertinent regulations affecting your drivers with regard to their alertness or ability to drive safely (ie. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations; Hours of Service Rules, etc.)

This is a great time to re-acquaint them with your company’s practices and expectations regarding all aspects of driving safely at night or during extended trips where fatigue may become a safety issue.

If you’re interested in learning more about our monthly driver training package (included free in our hotline program, or available for separate purchase), please let us know.  We can even send out a sample training topic for your review as a courtesy copy. 

Our toll-free number is 1-888-603-6987 – just let us know that you’re interested in the Drowsy Driving Training Topic.