Study Claims Drowsy Driving a Major Cause of Car Accidents in the US

Drowsy driving: Just how dangerous is it?

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics show that drunk driving is responsible for more than 10,000 fatal car accidents each year. Everyone knows that drunk driving is a major public safety hazard that frequently causes injuries and deaths. However, a new study suggests drowsy driving may be almost as dangerous.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety (AAA) published a study that argues federal statistics on drowsy driving accidents are underreported. Federal statistics claim drowsy driving is responsible for 1 to 2 percent of car accidents. AAA’s new study claims this number could be much higher.

How did AAA determine that drowsy driving accidents may be underreported? More than 3,500 people were selected to participate in the study. AAA used in-vehicle cameras and other equipment to observe the participants while they were driving.

Drowsiness was measured by observing the percentage of time motorists kept their eyes closed. There were also several near-misses and crashes while the study was being conducted. AAA determined that drowsiness was responsible for 8.5 to 9.5 percent of crashes that were examined during the study.

Is There a Connection Between Drunk and Drowsy Driving?

Sleep deprivation can impair a motorist in similar ways to alcohol intoxication slightly above the legal limit. According to the CDC, a person who has been awake for more than 24 hours has impairments that are similar to someone with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .10. In all 50 states, you can be charged with a DWI or DUI for having a BAC of .08 or higher.

CDC statistics also show that one-third of US drivers get less than seven hours of sleep per night. While many people are likely not staying awake for 24 hours straight, they can still be impaired if they are not getting adequate sleep. The CDC maintains that being awake for 18 hours is comparable to a BAC of .05. A person who has been awake for this long can experience pronounced effects of alcohol intoxication if they have been drinking.

Prior AAA studies have also made comparisons between drunk and drowsy driving accident risks. According to AAA, a person who receives four to five hours of sleep in a 24-hour period is as likely to crash as someone with a BAC above the legal limit.

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Joshua Bonnici is a San Diego personal injury lawyer with a strong commitment to promoting public safety. If you have questions about your legal rights after a car accident, then you may contact the Bonnici Law Group, APC for a free consultation.