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Drowsy Driving Just as Dangerous as Drunk Driving

Metzger Wickersham
Drowsy Driving Just as Dangerous as Drunk Driving

AAA recently released data showing that fatigued driving is a bigger traffic safety issue than federal estimates show and is just as dangerous as driving drunk.

In the most extensive drowsy driving study ever conducted in the United States, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has found that the percentage of crashes involving drowsiness is nearly eight times higher than federal estimates.

The AAA study found that drowsy driving is one of the most under-reported traffic safety issues. Researchers used analysis of in-vehicle dash cam video from more than 700 crashes to confirm that crashes involving drowsy driving soars above official estimates.

“Drivers who don’t get enough sleep are putting everyone on the road at risk," said Dr. David Yang, executive director for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. "By conducting an in-depth analysis using video of everyday drivers, we can now better assess if a driver was fatigued in the moments leading up to a crash.”

In the study, researchers closely examined video of drivers’ faces in the three minutes leading up to a crash. Using a scientific measure linking the percentage of time a person’s eyes are closed to their level of drowsiness, the researchers determined that 9.5 percent of all crashes and 10.8 percent of crashes resulting in significant property damage involved drowsiness. Federal estimates indicate drowsiness is a factor in only one to two percent of crashes.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that 35 percent of US drivers sleep less than the recommended minimum of seven hours daily. In a recent related AAA Foundation survey, nearly all drivers (96 percent) say they view drowsy driving as a serious threat to their safety and an unacceptable behavior.

"Missing just two to three hours of sleep can more than quadruple your risk for a crash, which is the equivalent of driving drunk,” said Jake Nelson, director of Traffic Safety Advocacy and Research for AAA.

AAA says drivers can seek to avoid falling asleep behind the wheel by paying attention to the following dangerous warning signs:

  • Having trouble keeping your eyes open
  • Drifting from your lane
  • Not remembering the last few miles driven

AAA stresses that drivers should prioritize getting at least seven hours of sleep before hitting the road.

Recommendations for drivers:

  • Travel at times of the day when you are normally awake
  • Avoid heavy foods
  • Avoid medications that cause drowsiness or other impairment
  • Schedule a break every two hours or every 100 miles
  • Travel with an alert passenger and take turns driving
  • Take a quick catnap, at least 20 minutes but no longer than 20 minutes, for long drives

Source: AAA

The attorneys at Metzger Wickersham know firsthand the dangers of dangerous behaviors like drowsy, distracted, drunken or drugged driving. If you've been injured in a crash caused by a negligent driver, call on our accident attorneys for legal guidance. With 130 years of representation to Pennsylvania communities, we have earned a reputation for being one of the most trusted personal injury legal teams in the region.

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