Fatigued, Tired Drivers Said to Cause 20% of All U.S. Traffic Deaths: Drowsy Drivers at Fault?

Fatigued, Tired Drivers Said to Cause 20% of All U.S. Traffic Deaths: Drowsy Drivers at Fault?

A new study has been released by “Triple A,” or the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, regarding traffic accidents and this study finds that 21% of deaths in car crashes are due to drivers who are tired or sleepy and operating a vehicle. That’s a lot of people driving with fatigue.

The AAA study is also reporting a higher number for fatigue driving risk that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in its monitoring of the problem. This new study suggests that drivers on the road who are too sleepy to be driving is a much bigger problem that many may have perceived to be the case until now.

From AAA:

According to new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, more than one-in-five (21 percent) fatal crashes involve driver fatigue. These results help confirm what safety experts have long suspected: the prevalence of drowsy driving is much greater than official statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) currently indicate. As daylight saving time ends and evening commutes darken, AAA urges drivers to recognize warning signs of driver fatigue and take action to avoid tragedy during this holiday season.

“This new research further confirms that drowsy driving is a serious traffic safety problem,” warned Peter Kissinger, President and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “Unfortunately, drivers often underestimate this risk and overestimate their ability to combat drowsiness behind the wheel.”

It’s Hard to Determine if Fatal Crash Caused by Fatigue

Meanwhile, the National Sleep Council points out that it is not easy to determine after the fact whether or not a driver in a fatal collision was driving drowsy at the time of the accident. Investigators of crash sites can’t easily calculate how alert (or not) a driver when the crash happened. There are ways, however, to find out if a driver actually fell asleep at the wheel, such as (1) one-car accidents and (2) the absence of skid marks.

Signs of a Fatigued, Drowsy Driver

From AAA, here are some signs that a driver may be driving dangerously because they are really tired and need some rest:

  • The inability to recall the last few miles traveled;
  • Having disconnected or wandering thoughts;
  • Having difficulty focusing or keeping your eyes open;
  • Feeling as though your head is very heavy;
  • Drifting out of your driving lane, perhaps driving on the rumble strips;
  • Yawning repeatedly;
  • Accidentally tailgating other vehicles;
  • Missing traffic signs.

Accident Crash Claims and Fault of the Driver

When an accident happens and an insurance company is being asked to pay large sums of money in damages to an accident victim, rest assured that these insurance companies are going to be looking long and hard on studies like these to try and limit their liability through the legal element of “fault” in a negligence case.

If a driver can be shown to have driven when they were too fatigued to operate a vehicle, or if they can be shown to have been distracted at the time of the crash as another example, then the defendant can argue the “proximate cause” of the crash was the driver’s irresponsibility at the time of the crash.

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