Drowsy drivers beware. The results of a recent study document just how common falling asleep at the wheel really is and how dangerous it can be. Researchers from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that an estimated 15-30 percent of fatal crashes each year are the result of drowsy drivers. In fact, 2.5 percent of fatal motor vehicle crashes (approximately 730 in 2009) and 2.0 percent of all crashes with nonfatal injuries (approximately 30,000 in 2009) involved drowsy drivers. If people are falling asleep at the wheel that frequently and hurting or killing hundreds of people each year in the United States alone, perhaps drivers need to reevaluate the condition in which they operate their vehicles.
In another study by the Center for Disease Control, 147,076 respondents in 19 states, from Utah to Texas, were asked a series of questions about insufficient sleep. Among all the respondents, 4.2 percent reported having fallen asleep while driving at least one time during the previous thirty days. Even if that many people reported falling asleep at the wheel once in the last year it would be huge, but the report showed that roughly 60,000 people admitted to falling asleep once in the past month.
Of the drivers who reported falling asleep at the wheel, most reported usually sleeping less than six hours per day, snoring, or unintentionally falling asleep during the day. The National Sleep Foundation did a study that resulted in a shocking percent (60 percent) of adult drivers, about 168 million people, who said they have driven a vehicle while feeling drowsy in the past year and more than one-third, 103 million people, reported actually falling asleep at the wheel! Whether drivers were in Ford truckers or compact Toyota's, dealing with the dangerous behavior of drowsy driving claims lives. In fact, of those that have nodded off, 13 percent say they deal with falling asleep at the wheel at least once a month. Four percent, approximately eleven million drivers, admit that they have had an accident or near accident because they have started falling asleep or were too tired to drive. Whether you drive a Ford or a Honda, in Utah or Seattle, drowsy driving can and will cause fatal accidents that are impossible for the driver and families to deal with.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conservatively estimates that 100,000 police-reported crashes are the direct result of driver fatigue each year; which results in 1,550 deaths and 71,000 injuries. Not only are lives lost by drowsy driving, but so is money. Roughly 12.5 billion dollars is lost a year due to drivers falling asleep at the wheel. The study found that adults between the ages of 18-29 are much more likely to drive while drowsy compared to other age groups. Men are also more likely to drive drowsy and are almost twice as likely as women to fall asleep while driving. Although you may think adults driving with children would be more careful, adults with children are more likely to drive drowsy than those without children (59 percent vs. 45 percent). Whether you drive in Utah or Ohio, the amount of sleep that adults get each night also comes into play. According to a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, people who sleep six to seven hours a night are twice as likely to be involved in a crash as those sleeping 8 hours or more, while people sleeping less than 5 hours increase their risk four to five times.
Dealing with drowsy drivers can be scary, but paying attention on the road and using defensive driving techniques can help. If you see someone who is driving drowsy, whether they are in a tiny convertible or a massive Ford truck, honk your horn and alert them to pay attention to the road; you could save lives. Be sure that if you ever find yourself feeling sleepy while driving, you pull over and refrain from being a danger to yourself and others.
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Mike Smith writes on various topics including health, sleep and insomnia, health advice and health. He is published on more than 300 websites including: www.cityofsleep.com
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