Study: Drowsy driving wrecks are more common than reported

One study’s findings suggest that drowsy driving accidents are more common than reported, and thus, put drivers, passengers and others at risk.

Most drivers in Washington, D.C., recognize the danger of falling asleep while driving. Fewer, however, realize that driving while fatigued or sleepy is also dangerous. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drowsy driving accidents resulted in over 7,000 deaths in the last 10 years, and many more serious injuries. Based on the findings of a study conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, these types of crashes may be more prevalent, and thus, more dangerous, than reported.

Why is fatigued driving hazardous?

When they are overly tired or have not gotten adequate sleep, drivers may experience a number of effects. Drowsiness may slow people's reaction times, impair their decision-making and affect their ability to focus. These impairments may compromise their ability to safely operate a vehicle, which may lead to them being involved in an auto accident.

How prevalent are drowsy driving crashes?

In an effort to better estimate the number of drowsy driving accidents that occurred between 2009 and 2013, researchers analyzed the data for 21,292 motor vehicle collisions. Only those wrecks in which at least one vehicle had to be towed away were included in the study. For each of the crashes included in the study, trained investigators assessed the attentiveness of the drivers at the time of the accident. In order to estimate the proportion of drowsy drivers among those with whose drowsiness status was unknown, the researchers implemented multiple imputation.

Drowsiness is a common danger

Based on the study's findings, researchers estimate that there are more drowsy driving collisions each year than are reported. According to the study, government statistics indicate that drowsiness is only involved in between one and three percent of all motor vehicle collisions each year. However, the study's estimates showed that approximately six percent of all crashes that result in at least one vehicle being towed from the scene involve drowsy drivers. When applied to all auto accidents, the study's estimates suggest that drowsiness contributes to an average of 6,400 fatal wrecks and 109,000 injury collisions annually.

Who is at risk of driving while drowsy?

Generally, anyone who is fatigued or sleepy may be at risk of drowsy driving. Some groups, however, may be more apt to drive while overly tired than others. According to the NHTSA, this includes the following:

  • People who get less than six hours of sleep each night
  • Drivers with sleep disorders, especially if they are untreated or undiagnosed
  • Males between 17 and 23-years-old
  • People who work long, irregular hours or at night

Additionally, taking certain medications or consuming alcoholic beverages may also cause drivers to become drowsy, or increase the effects of their drowsiness.

Working with an attorney

As a result of drowsy driving collisions in Washington, D.C., people may suffer serious injuries, which require medical treatment and time off of work to recover. Sometimes, this may lead to unexpected medical bills and lost income. Under some circumstances, the drowsy driver responsible for causing the crash may be held liable. Therefore, those who have been injured in drowsiness-involved accidents may benefit from discussing their options for seeking financial compensation with a legal representative.