A new AAA Northeast study has found that driving while drowsy or fatigued is much more dangerous than we thought. In fact, drowsy driving could actually be responsible for as many as one in ten car collisions. Federal government studies place that number much lower, estimating that tiredness is a factor in only about two percent of all auto collisions. The AAA study, however, studied dashcam footage from 700 actual car crashes, studying the habits and actions of each driver in the minutes leading up to the collision. A full 3,500 drivers were monitored continuously for a period of several months via data collection equipment, including in-vehicle cameras.
All Ages of Drivers Sampled with Young Drivers and Elderly Drivers Over-Sampled
Among those being monitored, drowsiness was assessed using measures of the percentage of the time that the driver’s eyes fully closed. Using this method, some level of drowsiness was identified in as many as 10.8 percent of the drivers. The sample of drivers included all ages of drivers, although both younger and older drivers were “deliberately over-sampled.” The result was that a high proportion of the crashes involved drivers under the age of 25; however, younger drivers traditionally do have a higher number of crashes, plus, as noted, younger drivers were over-sampled in this particular study.
Missing Sleep Can Potentially Quadruple a Driver’s Risk of a Collision
Jake Nelson, Director of Traffic Safety Advocate and Research for AAA, admitted that the findings from the research would likely be a surprise to many who consider it relatively harmless to miss a couple of hours of sleep a few nights a week. Nelson believes that missing sleep more than quadruples a driver’s risk for a crash—the equivalent of driving drunk. Unlike driving while impaired, there is no test equal to a breathalyzer, which can be administered by police to show the driver was fatigued. Further, a driver who crashes due to drowsiness is not likely to volunteer that fact to the police. In some instances, the driver may not fully realize that he or she was driving while fatigued.
Adults Need at Least Seven Hours of Sleep a Night
Estimates from a large-scale Naturalistic Driving Study determined that adults should sleep for at least seven hours each night—both for optimal health and to avoid driving while fatigued. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that driving after having slept less than seven hours within a 24-hour period resulted in noticeably elevated collision rates. There are ways you can determine whether you are fatigued enough to put yourself and others at risk while driving, including:
- Being unable to remember the past several miles driven;
- Yawning or blinking frequently;
- Hitting a rumble strip on the side of the road;
- Trouble keeping your eyes open, and
- Drifting from your own lane.
Unfortunately, drivers may not fully recognize these symptoms prior to actually falling asleep behind the wheel. And, while drivers may roll down their windows, crank up the music and sing as loud as they can, the body’s need for sleep will eventually override the attempts to remain awake.
CDC Also Finds Drowsy Driving Dangerous
While the CDC does not believe drowsy driving is quite as prevalent as the AAA study, it still finds fatigued driving to be extremely dangerous. A CDC study found that four percent of drivers admitted to falling asleep at least once while driving within the past 30 days. The study also concluded that individuals who snored or slept six hours or less per day were considerably more likely to report falling asleep behind the wheel.
Although simple lack of sleep is generally the reason for drivers driving while drowsy, fatigued driving can also happen due to untreated sleep disorders, shift work, or medications which cause drowsiness. Fatigue can result in drivers paying less attention to the road, slowing reaction time, and affecting a driver’s ability to make good decisions while behind the wheel.
Getting Necessary Help for Your Client Following a Crash Caused by Drowsy Driving
As drowsy driving causes more and more auto accidents, serious injuries may result. Those injured as the result of a fatigued driver, likely need financial assistance to help them get back on their feet and receive the medical treatments they need. If the injuries are severe enough, the injured individual may not be able to return to work, therefore could also be unable to pay his or her regular monthly expenses.
Your client’s ability to get treatment for his or her injuries and assistance with their drowsy-driving-related injury expenses can, unfortunately, be limited; however, help can come from USClaims. At USClaims, pre-settlement funding can help your clients pay those unexpected injury expenses in anticipation of a court judgment or settlement. 1-877-USCLAIMS today for the information you and your clients need and deserve.