Drowsy driving a factor in one out of six fatal accidents

The National Sleep Foundation recently released a paper on the risks and dangers associated with drowsy driving. The research cited in the paper is not specific to Pennsylvania drivers, but the information is certainly true for any and all drivers, regardless of where in the country they reside.

Of particular concern is the fact that roughly 70 million Americans have some sort of sleep disorder. This, coupled with the fact that a rather high percentage of drivers have admitted to operating a motor vehicle while tired, puts many at risk.

AAA conducted a study, which found drowsy driving caused one out of every six fatal accidents. Drowsy driving also was the cause of one out of every eight motor vehicle accidents that led to someone being hospitalized.

However, what is even more frightening is the fact that the numbers may be off and drowsy driving may be a factor in even more accidents than reported. This is due to the fact that drivers may lie about being tired or may not have even realized they were tired before a crash. Police investigating accidents also may not even have drowsy driving on their radars.

When looking at the issue of drowsy driving, it is important to note that while there are certain groups of drivers who are more susceptible to tired driving, like commercial truck drivers, people with sleep disorders and shift workers, drowsy driving is something that affects the average every day driver. In fact, some public health experts have referred to it as a “silent killer.”

To prevent drowsy driving, individuals can take action. This means recognizing the signs of being too tired to drive. These include frequent blinking, lapses in memory, drifting out of lanes and having trouble focusing. Also, when a driver is tired, anecdotes like rolling down the window, blasting loud music or stopping to stretch, have no research to back their effectiveness.

In the end, drivers in Pennsylvania need to take personal responsibility for their driving actions. If drowsy driving causes an accident, for those who are injured, the fact that the other driver was tired is not enough of an excuse.

Source: National Sleep Foundation, “National Sleep Foundation White Paper on Drowsy Driving,” accessed Feb. 28, 2013