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Asleep At The Wheel | Drowsy Driving Accidents

The numbers are more than a little shocking. Two out of five motorists admit to having fallen asleep while driving at some point in their lives – and over 25% of them also say they’ve had trouble keeping their eyes open while on the road just in the past month. In a new study released in November by the American Automobile Association (AAA), the widespread danger of drowsy drivers on the roads was made very clear. Drowsy driving has not received much attention on the research front of late; this is the first major study of the problem in over 15 years. AAA conducted the study this past spring by polling 2000 Americans ages 16 and older over the phone.

Sleepy driving accidents can take various forms, often resulting from impaired alertness and decreased reaction time. Some common types of sleepy driving accidents include:

  1. Single-Vehicle Crashes: The driver may veer off the road, hit a stationary object, or overturn due to drowsiness.
  2. Rear-End Collisions: Fatigued drivers may fail to brake in time, leading to rear-end collisions with vehicles ahead.
  3. Lane Drifting: A drowsy driver may unintentionally drift into other lanes or onto the shoulder of the road.
  4. Intersection Collisions: Impaired focus and reaction time can lead to accidents at intersections, especially when a driver fails to stop at a signal or stop sign.
  5. Collisions with Fixed Objects: Drowsy driving accidents can involve collisions with trees, utility poles, guardrails, and other fixed structures.
  6. Head-On Collisions: In extreme cases, a fatigued driver may cross into oncoming traffic, resulting in head-on collisions.

It’s important to address fatigue while driving to prevent these types of accidents. If you have any specific questions or need more information, feel free to ask.

Drowsy driving refers to the act of operating a vehicle while feeling excessively tired or sleepy. It is a significant safety hazard as it impairs a driver’s ability to stay alert, focus on the road, and react quickly to potential dangers. Some key aspects of drowsy driving include:

  1. Causes: Lack of sleep, sleep disorders, medications, and alcohol consumption are common factors contributing to drowsy driving.
  2. Symptoms: Signs of drowsy driving include yawning, heavy eyelids, difficulty keeping one’s head up, drifting between lanes, and trouble remembering the last few miles driven.
  3. Risks: Drowsy driving increases the risk of accidents, as fatigued drivers have slower reaction times, impaired judgment, and an increased likelihood of falling asleep behind the wheel.
  4. Prevention: To prevent drowsy driving, it’s essential to get an adequate amount of sleep before long trips, take breaks during journeys, avoid driving during typical sleep hours, and be aware of medications that may cause drowsiness.
  5. Consequences: Drowsy driving can lead to accidents resulting in injuries or fatalities. In some cases, legal consequences such as fines or penalties may also apply.

It’s crucial for drivers to recognize the signs of drowsiness and take appropriate measures to ensure their safety and the safety of others on the road. If you have any specific questions or concerns about drowsy driving, feel free to ask

Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of the AAA Foundation, the arm of the AAA that conducts research, commented, “I think the biggest mistake people make is that they underestimate how tired they are and they overestimate their ability to deal with it when they are driving.”

The AAA also analyzed car accident statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) from 1999 through 2008. The NHTSA data indicated that drowsy drivers accounted for about one in six car accidents resulting in wrongful death, and about one in eight car accidents resulting in personal injury that required hospitalization.

The biggest age group that reported having fallen asleep while driving during the past year? Surprisingly, drivers ages 16 to 24. Men were also much more likely than women to have ever fallen asleep while driving.

Another startling fact is that more than one in four of those motorists who fell asleep at the wheel over the past 12 months did so between the hours of noon and 5 pm – the exact same percentage that couldn’t keep their eyes open between midnight and 6 am.

Also, over half of those polled that had fallen asleep while driving said they did so while on a multi-lane divided highway, where the severity of a car accident would be substantially higher. AAA’s drowsy driving polling statistics may actually be lower than the real figures, due to the polling sample having to volunteer their own behavior to the researcher. Many people are reluctant to admit to doing something the interviewer might view as objectionable.

At the same time, during the polling, many admitted drowsy drivers seemed to view their behavior as no big deal, even though it could easily cause car accidents resulting in personal injury or wrongful death.

“The big thing is really attitude,” says Kissinger from the AAA Foundation. “We see, overall, in terms of driving safety, more of complacency or an indifference where people seem to almost accept the fact that we will have tragedy on the nation’s highways as the price we need to pay for the mobility we clearly enjoy in this country. Not only are they putting themselves at risk, but they’re putting other people on the nation’s highways at risk as well.”

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