Drowsy Driving and the Risk of Fatal Traffic Accidents in Indiana and Illinois


Drowsy Driving and the Risk of Fatal Traffic Accidents in Indiana and Illinois

Media stories and social media campaigns devote lots of time and energy into educating all of us on the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or driving while distracted by our phones,  GPS, music, etc.

What about drowsy driving?  It’s a real and serious threat to anyone driving on the roadways of Indiana or Illinois.  Yet, drowsy driving isn’t getting as much publicity as other forms of driving dangers.  That needs to change.

What is Drowsy Driving?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Drowsy Driving” involves someone operating a motor vehicle while fatigued or sleepy.  Drowsy driving has several different causes, including:

  1. the driver not getting enough sleep the night before;
  2. the driver suffering from a sleep disorder, like sleep apnea;
  3. the driver operating the vehicle while under the influence of medications;
  4. the driver driving under the influence of alcohol; and
  5. the driver who works irregular hours and has a varied sleep pattern (shift work, long haul truckers, etc.).

Drowsy driving can involve someone who is not thinking clearly and fully coherent while they are operating their motor vehicle.  It can also involve someone who actually falls asleep at the wheel.

Even someone who is just tired after a long day at work and drives their car, SUV, minivan, or truck, is entering the roadway with:

  • A lowered ability to pay attention to traffic and other things on the drive (road hazards, weather conditions, etc.)
  • A slower reaction time if there is a sudden need to act while driving (like having to steer around debris on the road, or having to brake fast)
  • A decreased ability to make swift decisions while driving – as well as the ability to make good decisions behind the wheel.

Drowsy Driving Causes Fatal Traffic Accidents

In a study undertaken back in 2010 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), it was estimated that “drowsy driving” caused 16.5% of fatal motor vehicle accidents in this country.  That’s a serious statistic.  The study set off alarm bells with many safety advocates.

Then things got worse.  A 2014 study undertaken by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety covered the time span of 2009-2013.

 It found drowsy drivers are the cause of 21% of fatal traffic accidents in this country.

The newer research reveals that over 33% of American drivers admitted to researchers that they had fallen asleep behind the wheel at some point in their lives.  Over 1 in 10 of these drivers said this had happened to them within the past year.

In December 2016, the Foundation released a new report about crash risk and lack of sleep.  According to this research, the risk of a serious or fatal traffic accident rises exponentially as drivers get behind the wheel with less and less sleep.

Read the full report here, “Acute Sleep Deprivation and Risk of Motor Vehicle Crash Involvement.”

From the report:

Drivers with less than 4 hours of sleep in the past 24 hour period had a crash rate 11.5 higher (1150%) than a driver who had 7+ hours of sleep during the same time frame;

Drivers with less than 5 hours of sleep in the past 24 hour period had a crash rate 4.3 higher (430%) than a driver who had 7+ hours of sleep during the same time frame;

Drivers with less than 6 hours of sleep in the past 24 hour period had a crash rate 1.3 higher (130%) than a driver who had 7+ hours of sleep during the same time frame.

Highest Risk for Drowsy Driving Traffic Deaths

Research has also revealed the highest risk factors for being in a fatal drowsy driving accident.  There are several conditions that increase the danger of this kind of fatality.

  1. For instance, there are certain times of the day when our roads are at a higher risk of Drowsy Driving deaths. While a drowsy driver can be a danger at any time, day or night, research shows that fatal Drowsy Driving accidents are more likely to happen:
  • Between Midnight and Six o’clock in the Morning; or
  • Late Afternoon.
  1. The most likely victim of a fatal Drowsy Driving accident is the driver himself. These are single-vehicle crashes, often where the car runs off the road at a high rate of speed.
  2. More Drowsy Driving accidents happen on rural roads and long stretches of highway than in urban areas.

Next week begins National Drowsy Driving Prevention Week.  In our next post, we’ll discuss ways to keep safe from the dangers of drowsy driving, and what loved ones of the victims of Drowsy Driving accidents in Indiana and Illinois can do in the aftermath of a fatal crash caused by a drowsy driver. 

Remember, the less sleep, the higher the risk of a fatal car crash.  Let’s be careful out there!

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