Drowsy Driving A Greater Danger Amid Holiday Travel Season

The mangled mess of metal hauled away from the highway near Belmont late last month was a visible reminder of what can happen when drivers fail to get enough sleep. drivingatnight.jpg

Authorities say the 19-year-old driver, with four passengers in his vehicle, fell asleep while driving home from an early morning Black Friday shopping trip. He was killed and his four passengers each hospitalized after he ran off the road and struck a gas station sign. He was traveling 50 miles-per-hour and there was no indication that he had attempted to brake. The vehicle was totaled.

A new study suggests that more Charlotte car accident injuries and deaths are caused by driver fatigue than we perhaps ever realized.

A recent study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute revealed that an estimated 20 percent of all crashes are the result of driver fatigue. Previous estimates had put the figure at just 2 to 3 percent. However, the latter was only what could be definitively proven.

The institute’s Center for Vulnerable Road User Safety conducted a study using in-car cameras to observe driver behavior just prior to crashes. In 20 percent of crashes and 16 percent of all near-crashes, the driver exhibited signs of fatigue, such as eye-lid closing, bobbing head and even micro-sleep. The highest risk group? Those between the ages of 18 and 20.

This information is especially relevant as we near the winter break, when scores of college students will be trekking home for the holidays. In some cases, they will attempt to maximize their time by traveling at night, after an arduous week of final exams and/or a long work shift.

As the Belmont case shows, the effect of this kind of fatigue can’t be underestimated.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that while no one is immune to the possibility of drowsy driving, young males between the ages of 16 and 29 are deemed at the highest risk.

A 1995 study by Knipling and Wang found that younger drivers accounted for about a third of all fatigued driver crashes, despite the fact that they only accounted for about one-fourth of all licensed drivers.

In North Carolina specifically, male drivers were found to be behind the wheel in three out of four fall-asleep crashes (Pack et al., 1995). While men and women are believed to be equally chronically sleep-deprived, men were five times more likely than women to be involved in a drowsy-driving accident.

Many drivers have false assumptions about how much sleep they need. Most require eight hours, but driving on any less than six hours puts you at risk – and this is true not matter what your age, though sleep researchers believe teens and young adults tend to need more.

The AAA Foundation recommends drivers adhere to the following to limit their risk of a drowsy driving wreck:

  • Avoid driving when you’re sleepy.
  • Get enough rest, especially the evening or day before you embark on a long trip.
  • Take someone with you. Having an alert passenger at your side will help you recognize the signs of fatigue, even if you don’t recognize them in yourself.
  • Pull over and take a nap. Find a rest area or other safe place that is well-lit. Even 20 minutes can help. Afterward, get a little exercise and consume some caffeine.
  • Take a break every two hours or so – sooner than that if you feel tired.

If you have been injured in a car accident, contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices today by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
Teen killed in car accident after Black Friday shopping, Nov. 30, 2013, Staff Report, WCNC.com
Wake Up and Drive: Fatigue Causes 20 Percent of Crashes, June 5 2013, By Laura Walter, EHS Today

More Blog Entries:
Defensive Driving is the key to Safe Driving in North Carolina, Nov. 14, 2013, Charlotte Car Accident Lawyer Blog

Contact Information