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DATE News (chronologically)
12/30/12
automotive
Fatigue 2nd most likely cause of traffic accidents.  Twenty-eight percent of traffic accidents occur when people talk on cellphones or send text messages while driving, according to a study released by the National Safety Council. But a new study shows that driving tired is the 2nd most leading cause of traffic accidents and 17% of all traffic fatalities are caused by a driver falling asleep at the wheel.

American drivers are more likely to drive while drowsy according to new data presented by AAA. Based on a recent survey conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, one in seven licensed drivers ages 16-24 admitted to having nodded off at least once while driving in the past year and one in ten of all licensed drivers who confessed to falling asleep during the same period.

These new findings echo data from a 2010 AAA Foundation study of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) crash data that estimates that young drivers age 16-24 were more likely, by some 78 percent, to be drowsy at the time of the crash as drivers age 40-59. This earlier analysis also revealed that one in six deadly crashes (17%)  involve a drowsy driver, making it one of the leading contributors to traffic crashes.

“Research shows that fatigue impairs safe driving, with many symptoms causing drivers to behave in ways similar to those who are intoxicated,” said AAA President & CEO Robert Darbelnet. “In preparation for the holiday driving season and with many young drivers heading home for Thanksgiving break, AAA is drawing attention to this often overlooked crash risk that is a serious threat to everyone’s safety on the road.”

The recent analysis also found that while eight out of ten people view drowsy drivers as a serious threat to their own personal safety, many admit to driving while extremely drowsy themselves. In fact, 30 percent of licensed drivers reported having driven in the past 30 days when they were so tired that they struggled to keep their eyes open.

“Unfortunately, most drivers underestimate the risks associated with drowsy driving and overestimate their ability to deal with it—that’s a dangerous combination,” said AAA Foundation President & CEO Peter Kissinger.

Driving while sleepy or fatigued can significantly impact driving ability, causing slower reaction time, vision impairment and lapses in judgment. While there is no guarantee that drivers will recognize when they are becoming tired behind the wheel, signs of drowsy driving can include:

  • Trouble remembering the last miles driven or missing exits and traffic signs
  • Difficulty keeping your eyes open and focused
  • Yawning frequently or rubbing your eyes repeatedly
  • Drifting from your lane or off the road
  • Daydreaming or having wandering, disconnected thoughts

An alternate advice for any driver is to carry a couple of spare bottles of 5-hour Energy drink in your car. If you start feeling drowsy, take the advice listed to the left, or, as a minimum, take an energy drink immediately. Consult your doctor before using them, but most people who use them say they work well.
AAA urges all motorists to stop driving and find a safe place to pull over if experiencing any of the drowsy driving symptoms. To remain alert and be safer behind the wheel, AAA suggests:

  • Get plenty of sleep (at least seven hours) the night before a long trip
  • Avoid travelling at times you would normally be sleeping
  • Schedule a break every two hours or every 100 miles
  • Avoid heavy foods
  • Travel with a companion and take turns driving
  • Avoid medications that cause drowsiness or other impairment
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