A recent study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety shows that drowsy drivers have been causing more fatal motor vehicle accidents than in the past. Incredibly, two out of every five drivers admitted to falling asleep while driving at least once; and 10 percent admitted to dozing off behind the wheel in the past year.
Facts and Statistics
According to a recent analysis by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) one of every six fatal crashes involves a drowsy driver. Drowsy drivers are also involved in one of every eight crashes resulting in a driver or passenger being hospitalized. In crashes where a vehicle is towed, one in every 14 collisions involves a drowsy driver.
These numbers are considerably higher than those from only two years ago. For example in 2008, 2.4 percent of fatal crashes in the U.S. involved drowsy drivers. This past year, 17 percent of fatal crashes involved a drowsy driver.
Individuals at Risk
Everyone needs a good night’s sleep, and everyone is potentially at risk of falling asleep behind the wheel. There are specific groups of people, however, that are more susceptible to fatigue while driving.
These at risk groups include teens, the elderly, and commercial drivers and others who spend a good deal of time on the road. People with undiagnosed or untreated sleep disorders like sleep apnea are also more likely to fall asleep behind the wheel.
Tips to Stay Awake and Alert
Below are some precautions and tips to help drivers stay alert while driving and avoid drowsy driving car accidents:
- Avoid driving during hours you would normally be asleep.
- Review medication labels for warnings regarding drowsiness.
- Get a good night’s sleep before heading out on a long drive.
- If you become drowsy, get off the road and take a 15-20 minute nap in a safe place.
- If necessary drink caffeinated beverages, but don’t rely on caffeine for long periods.
If possible drive with a passenger who can watch for warning signs of fatigue.