Drowsy Driving a Larger Public Safety Issue than Feds Estimate


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A new study suggests that drowsiness pays a role in a much larger percentage of car accidents than the federal government previously estimated. In fact, the study shows that drowsy driving accidents take place at almost eight times the rate of current federal estimates. With so many sleepy people on the road, drivers must remain vigilant and prepare themselves to take defensive action.

Calculating the Impact of Drowsy Driving

The new study cleverly uses dashcam footage from more than 700 crashes to count how many drivers suffered from fatigue at the time of accidents. According to AAA, which reported on the study, estimating the impact of fatigue is difficult after a crash, probably because the accident jolts drivers awake. But the dashcam footage shows a different story.

According to official government estimates, fewer than 2 percent of all crashes involve drowsiness. However, researchers analyzed the dashcam footage in the three minutes before a collision. Measuring the amount of time a person’s eyes closed, researchers estimated drowsy driving contributed to about 9.5 percent of all crashes and almost 11 percent of crashes with significant property damage.

Too Much Driving, Not Enough Sleep

The recent report should not surprise anyone, because earlier studies had shown that too many drivers got behind the wheel of a moving vehicle when tired. An earlier AAA study found that almost 30 percent of people admitted that they had driven when so fatigued that they almost could not keep their eyes open.

Based on federal estimates, about 35 percent of people do not get at least seven hours of sleep a day, which is the recommended minimum for adults. Disturbingly, a high percentage of these people apparently drive even while tired.

If you notice any of the following, you are at risk of falling asleep behind the wheel:

  • You can’t keep your eyes open.
  • You can’t remember the last few miles of driving.
  • You start drifting out of your lane.

Fatigued drivers should immediately pull off to the side of the road and stop driving instead of relying on a cup of coffee or amphetamines to keep them awake. Instead, only a good night’s sleep will do the trick. Find the nearest rest stop or exit and find a place to nap.

Defensive Driving is Necessary

Vigilant drivers must prepare for the unexpected, including fatigued drivers drifting into their lanes and slamming into them. Accordingly, practice the following safety tips, especially at night when drowsy driving increases:

  • Scan even further ahead than normal. Doing so will allow you to catch a driver who is swerving or floating into your lane.
  • Keep a long time cushion between you and the car in front of you. A drowsy driver who snaps awake might make a sudden movement.
  • Put your lights on, even if it is not yet dark. This will make you more visible.

Injured in a Collision? Schedule a Consultation with a Virginia Car Accident Lawyer

Drowsy drivers cause serious injuries to innocent drivers on Virginia’s roads. If you or a loved one was injured, you need a tough car accident lawyer in your corner. At Emroch & Kilduff, our lawyers specialize in car accidents, including those caused by fatigued drivers. To check whether you can bring a lawsuit, contact us today at (804) 358-1568.