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.
Illinois State Trooper Douglas Balder discussed the truck accident that injured him and killed a tollway worker on the one-year anniversary of the incident. When asked about the crash, he said, "I view it as a failure of the system to take care of us." Officer Balder was not the only Illinois policeman involved in a truck crash recently. State Trooper James Sauter was struck and killed in 2013 when his cruiser was rear-ended by semi. Officer Balder and the widow of Officer Sauter are advocating for the use of reckless homicide charges in cases like theirs.
The National Transportation Safety Board is holding a highway safety forum this week on the topic of drowsy driving. The public forum will cover various topics, including the prevalence of drowsy driving, potential countermeasures to combat the problem and risk factors tied to the issue. The NTSB has given the forum the title Awake, Alert, Alive. While fatigue has been addressed in the world of commercial driving, its impact on noncommercial driving is less well understood.
Studies into the impact of sleep apnea on those who suffer the condition revealed a substantial connection to motor vehicle accidents. An Australian study demonstrated that the victims of sleep apnea have car accident rates roughly three times that of the general population. Sleep apnea is far from the only cause of exhaustion among drivers, but it does serve to demonstrate the point that a tired driver is an unsafe driver. The study analyzed more than 2,600 hundred people who were believed to suffer from "sleep disordered breathing." This condition has come to be referred to as sleep apnea by many.