The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently conducted a forum on the problem of drowsy driving. The forum, entitled Asleep at the Wheel, was part of National Drowsy Driving Prevention Week. It included discussions over the breadth of the problem and potential methods of addressing drowsy driving.
According to the head administrator of the NHTSA, drowsy driving accidents claim somewhere between 5,000 and 7,000 lives each year nationwide. The AAA completed a survey of drivers and found that 43 percent acknowledged having fallen asleep or “nodded off” behind the wheel at some point. Nearly 40 percent of drivers between 19 and 24 years of age admitted to driving while “struggling to keep their eyes open” within the prior month. An earlier study by the AAA found that 16.5 percent of fatal traffic accidents are caused by drowsy driving.
Sleep deprivation is unlikely to decrease in the near future. There are a number of contributing factors that make it difficult to get enough sleep. Many Americans work long hours. We stare at cell phones and computer screens for hours. We don’t make sleep the priority it should be, and almost everyone is guilty of this. Significant lifestyle changes would be necessary for many people to feel properly rested every day.
Drowsy driving is particularly problematic because it is so difficult to stop. A tired driver is even less likely than a drunk or distracted driver to be stopped or ticketed for the offense. People don’t consider driving drowsy as serious a problem as driving drunk. To solve the problem, we need to impress upon people just how much danger they are in. If you are fighting to stay awake while driving, your life is in serious danger. Pull over. The consequences of a serious car accident are not something you want to experience.
Source: WTOP, “Wake-up call: Alarming number of motorists confess to drowsy driving,” by ABC Radio, 4 November 2015