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Driver fatigue is a huge cause of car accidents

August 20, 2018 by Steven M. Gursten

New study finds driver fatigue is 8-10 times higher than government estimates; involved in more than 8% of all car crashes and 10% of severe car accidents

Driver fatigue 8-10 times more prevalent in car accidents than government statistics suggest

Driver fatigue plays a role in a staggering number of car accidents, yet most lawyers who call themselves car accident attorneys completely ignore it.

It is also nearly 8 to 10 times more prevalent in car crashes than previous U.S. estimates, according to a recent AAA-Foundation for Traffic Safety study.

The study, “Prevalence of Drowsy-Driving Crashes: Estimates from a Large-Scale Naturalistic Driving Study,” reported the following about driver fatigue, which is also commonly referred to as drowsy driving. That is also how I’ve referred to it in previous entries in this auto lawyers blog.

These are some of the key points from the study:

  • “[D]rowsiness was identified in 8.8%–9.5% of all crashes examined and 10.6%–10.8% of crashes that resulted in significant property damage, airbag deployment, or injury, i.e., those crashes that were “severe enough to be reportable to the police.”
  • Whereas, “official statistics from the U.S. government indicate that only approximately 1%–2% of all motor vehicle crashes involve drowsy driving …”
  • “These results suggest that driver drowsiness is a substantially larger problem than official government statistics indicate …”

The results of the AAA-FTS study on driver fatigue highlight a significant but largely ignored danger for drivers and the driving public.

Driver fatigue study provides more proof of dangers of drowsy driving

I’m not surprised by the study results, unfortunately, as I’ve been bringing attention to the dangers of driver fatigue and drowsy driving for years.  It’s a topic that I’ve tried to bring more attention to for the lawyers who handle car crash cases.  I’ve also had attorneys and experts present on this at legal seminars that I put on for attorneys who litigate motor vehicle accident cases, including in my advanced auto accident legal seminar that I hold in Las Vegas every year in conjunction with 360 Advocacy.

On this blog, I’ve urged the Michigan Legislature to better protect drivers by passing a drowsy driving law.  This is one of those knee-jerk issues that most people might at first oppose, not having any idea that it is causing literally tens of thousands of car crashes across the United States every year.  In my blog, I highlighted the following about the crash risks associated with driver fatigue:

  • A drowsy driver who has had less than five hours of sleep is nearly five times more likely to be involved in an auto accident.
  • The impairment level of a driver who has gone for 17-19 hours without sleep is “equivalent or worse than” the impairment level for a driver with a B.A.C. of 0.05%.

How did the study identify driver fatigue? 

Driver fatigue or drowsiness was evaluated based on in-vehicle dashcam video from the drivers’ vehicles using the PERCLOS measure “which is the percentage of time that a person’s eyes are closed” during the “final three minutes of video preceding each crash …”

The study classified as a driver as fatigued or “drowsy if the driver’s eyes were closed in 12% or more of the video frames in the … period preceding the crash.”

Tips for preventing driver fatigue

The study noted that “[e]xperts recommend that adults should sleep for least seven hours each night for optimal health.”

Additionally, the study pointed out that previous AAA-FTS studies have “found that driving after having slept for less than seven hours in a 24-hour period is associated with measurably elevated crash rates …”

Importantly, William Van Tassel, manager of Driver Training for AAA, told AAA-FTS the following:

“Don’t be fooled, the only antidote for drowsiness is sleep … Short term tactics like drinking coffee, singing, rolling down the window will not work. Your body’s need for sleep will eventually override your brain’s attempts to stay awake.”

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