Drowsy Driving Increasingly Recognized as Safety Risk

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The problem of “drowsy driving,” or driving while fatigued, is slowly starting to be recognized for the major safety hazard that it poses on the road. Most Americans know that drunk driving is a serious problem and the equally dangerous habit of texting while driving has received much attention of late. But it is only more recently that the real problem of drivers getting behind the wheel when they are exhausted has started to be a focus of concern.

Drowsy driving is problematic because it impairs drivers’ abilities to react quickly, to make sound judgments as they drive, and to accurately and quickly assess the situation on the road.

Fatigued drivers can suffer attention lapses or even “microsleeps,” which can result in accidents. Yet until recently, the problem of drowsy driving has been under-reported and underestimated.

New findings on drowsy driving challenge status quo

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has recently published data on the prevalence of self-reported incidences of drowsy driving. The findings were cause for concern. For instance, in a national survey taken in 2002 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 37% of drivers admitted that they had at some point in the past “nodded off for at least a moment or fallen asleep while driving.”

Of these, 4% stated that they had done so in the past month. A more recent survey of 19 states and Washington DC that was taken in 2009-2010 found that 4% of respondents admitted to falling asleep at the wheel during the past 30 days. Finally the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found in 2010 that 41% of drivers reported that they had fallen asleep at the wheel at least once in their lives, including 4% who had done so in the past month.

These findings, which seem to be remarkably consistent, challenge previously reported data on the problem. For instance, earlier studies (derived largely from police report data) suggested that drowsy driving was involved in only 1-4% of all crashes. But the AAA Foundation’s own analysis suggests that rates of drowsy driving associated with various kinds of accidents are probably much higher. For instance, they suggest that 17% of fatal crashes between 1999 and 2008 seem to have involved drowsy driving. An updated version of the study from the years 2009 and 2013 places that figure at 21%.

Conference convened on drowsy driving

In response to the serious nature of the problem, the NHTSA recently convened a conference on the topic titled “Asleep at the Wheel: A Nation of Drowsy Drivers.” The conference, which was held in conjunction with National Drowsy Driving Prevention Week (November 1 – 8, 2015), gathered experts in the field to discuss the scope of the problem and possible solutions.

If you have been injured or lost a loved one in a drowsy driving-related car crash, or an automobile accident of any kind, please contact The Jeffcoat Firm to better understand your legal options.

To arrange a free case review with a highly skilled South Carolina car accident lawyer who serves Richland and Lexington Counties, dial (803) 200-2000.

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