Could Drowsy Driving Cause a Third of All Highway Fatalities?

Even low-end estimates of fatalities related to drowsy driving confirm that the problem exacts a tragic toll on the nation’s highways. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 2.5% of fatal motor vehicle crashes (approximately 730 in 2009), and 2% of all crashes with nonfatal injuries (approximately 30,000 in 2009), involve drowsy driving.

Still other modeling studies suggest 15% to 33% of fatal crashes might involve drowsy drivers. Either way, the figures lend additional credence to efforts to get the trucking industry fully on board with additional testing and treatment for commercial drivers.

The latest data from the NHTSA and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) show that fatalities and injuries are more likely in motor vehicle crashes that involve drowsy driving compared with non-drowsy driving crashes.

To assess the state-level self-reported prevalence of falling asleep while driving, CDC analyzed data from a set of questions about insufficient sleep administered through the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) during 2009–2010.

Among 147,076 respondents in 19 states and the District of Columbia (DC), 4.2% reported having fallen asleep while driving at least one time during the previous 30 days. Reports of falling asleep while driving were more common among adults who reported usually sleeping ≤6 hours per day, snoring, or unintentionally falling asleep during the day compared with other adults who did not report these characteristics.

Drowsy driving was associated with other sleep-related characteristics. Adults who reported frequent insufficient sleep, a daily sleep duration of ≤6 hours, snoring, or unintentionally falling asleep during the day reported drowsy driving more frequently than those who did not report those characteristics. Click here for the full CDC report.

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