Study: Drowsy driving a bigger risk than estimates suggest

Based on the findings of a recent study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, drowsy driving may contribute to nearly 10 percent of all auto accidents.

When it comes to the common causes of serious motor vehicle accidents in Louisiana and elsewhere, many people think primarily of speed, alcohol intoxication and other behaviors that are perceived as reckless. As such, often overlooked are the potential dangers of drowsy driving. One recent study indicates, however, that the risk of drowsiness-involved collisions is significantly greater than the official estimates indicate.

Examining the prevalence of driver drowsiness in auto wrecks

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety conducted a study to garner an accurate estimate of the prevalence of drowsiness-related accidents. To this end, the researchers gathered and analyzed the in-vehicle behaviors for 3,593 drivers. The participants' personal vehicles were equipped with cameras and other data collection equipment.

To assess driver drowsiness, the researchers employed the PERCLOS measure. Shown to help predict attention lapses and drowsiness, this measure is the percentage of time a person has his or her eyes closed over a given measurement period.

The dangers of drowsy driving

Most people are aware of the danger posed by falling asleep, and thus, having their eyes closed while they are behind the wheel. They may not know, though, that being fatigued or overly tired can also result in significant driving impairments. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these include the following:

  • Reduced judgment
  • Decreased attentiveness
  • Delayed reactions

Consequently, they may not notice or be able to respond to hazards or changes in the traveling conditions in time to avoid being involved in serious motor vehicle accidents.

Estimates fail to express drowsy driving risk

The study showed that drowsiness contributes to significantly more collisions each year than the official estimates suggest. Over the course of the study, the participants were involved in 905 auto accidents that were classified as minor, moderate and severe. In 112 of those wrecks, the drivers registered as drowsy for the full minute before impact, and the motorists were classified as drowsy for the full three minutes before impact in 589 of those accidents. Thus, based on the study's findings, the researchers estimate that approximately 9.5 percent of all accidents are drowsiness-related. This stands in stark contrast to the official estimates, which indicate drowsy driving contributes to only between one and two percent of all crashes.

Seeking legal guidance

When people are involved in drowsy driving accidents in Louisiana, they may suffer serious injuries that require extensive medical treatment and time off work to recover. As a result, they may experience losses, including undue medical bills and lost income, in addition to their physical pain and suffering. Under certain circumstances, the drowsy drivers in such wrecks may be held liable for these, and other resulting losses. Therefore, those who have been injured as a result of drowsiness-involved collisions may benefit from discussing their rights and options for pursuing compensation with an attorney.