Sleepy Drivers May Be Causing More Crashes Than Thought

From Drugs.com - February 8, 2018

Sleepy Drivers May Be Causing More Crashes Than Thought

THURSDAY, Feb. 8, 2018 -- Driver fatigue causes many more car accidents in the United States than previously estimated, a new report suggests.

The finding comes from an analysis of several months' worth of video recordings taken of nearly 3,600 Americans while they were driving. During that time, participating drivers were involved in 700 accidents.

All participants' vehicles had been outfitted with a dash-cam video recorder. That allowed researchers to analyze each driver's face in the minutes right before crashing. The researchers also had video of the road scene in front of the drivers.

Together, the footage suggested that the percentage of accidents involving sleepy drivers was about eight times higher than current federal estimates.

The finding was highlighted in a report released Thursday by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. The foundation describes the investigation into drowsy driving as the most in-depth of its kind to date.

"Driver drowsiness is a notoriously difficult problem to quantify because it typically does not leave behind evidence that a police officer can observe after the fact when investigating a crash -- in contrast to alcohol, for example," said Brian Tefft, a senior research associate with the foundation in Washington, D.C.

"Thus, we expected that our study would find that the problem was substantially bigger than the official statistics from the U.S. DOT [Department of Transportation] suggest," he said. "But we were still surprised by just how many crashes we found to involve driver drowsiness in our study."

The study found that "approximately 10 percent of all motor vehicle crashes involve driver drowsiness," Tefft said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about one-third of American drivers are not getting the minimum seven hours of daily sleep that experts recommend.

A recent AAA survey found that nearly three in 10 drivers said that in the past month they'd been so exhausted while driving that they were not able to keep their eyes open at some point.

To identify driver fatigue during car crashes, the researchers examined video taken during the one-to-three minute period preceding each accident. They then tallied the amount of time each driver's eyes were closed in that timeframe.

Drivers were deemed to have been "drowsy" if their eyes stayed closed for more than 12 percent of the time.

The study team concluded that current federal estimates -- which link 1 to 2 percent of all car crashes to driver fatigue -- woefully underestimate the dimension of the driving-while-tired problem.


Continue reading at Drugs.com »