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Drowsy Driving Statistics Reveal a Widespread Problem

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is encouraging people to avoid driving when they are fatigued. The NHTSA recently wrapped up National Drowsy Driving Prevention Week and is looking at ways to put a stop to a widespread problem. The head of the NHTSA estimated that somewhere between 5,000 and 7,000 deaths per year are caused by drowsy driving. He pointed to statistics gathered by the National Transportation Safety Board showing that fatigue was a contributing factor to nearly 40 percent of major NTSB highway investigations from 2001 to 2012.

The AAA released the results of a survey on tired driving. The group asked drivers if they had ever fallen asleep or nodded off while driving. Among U.S. drivers, 43 percent admitted that they had. The survey results indicate that these are not isolated incidents. Among drivers in the 19-24 age group, nearly 40 percent acknowledged driving while drowsy in the past month. Among all drivers surveyed, the percentage who admitted driving drowsy in the past month was 31.5. 

The AAA study revealed a number of factors common to drowsy driving incidents. The majority of drowsy driving crashes involve drivers who are alone in the vehicle. Most of the crashes occurred on high-speed divided highways. Somewhat surprisingly, 59 percent of the drivers who fell asleep behind the wheel in the past year did so less than one hour into the drive.

The results of the latest survey are not surprising. A 2010 AAA study estimated that 16.5 percent of fatal traffic accidents were caused by drowsy driving. By 2014, AAA estimated that 21 percent of deadly crashes were the result of drowsy driving. Like distracted driving, the problem is on the rise.

Source: WTOP, "Wake-up call: Alarming number of motorists confess to drowsy driving," by ABC Radio, 4 November 2015

Source: National Sleep Foundation, "Drowsy Driving Prevention Week® Highlights Prevalent and Preventable Accidents

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