The dangers of drowsy driving have led the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to broaden the impaired driving definition to encompass drugged, distracted, drunk and drowsy drivers. In an estimate from NHTSA, the GHSA learned that non-property damages of drowsy driving accidents totaled about $109 billion annually.
At the time when the report was released, motor vehicle deaths in the United States had climbed to about 7.7 percent. The report also offered suggestions for how states could address the problem of drowsy driving. Law enforcement, legislation and engineering are a few avenues suggested in the report, which totals more than 70 pages.
Although there are different reports of what percentage of all accidents are due to drowsy driving, safety officials across the nation agree that the problem is growing and must be addressed more aggressively. Their main challenges are measuring drowsy driving and finding ways to prevent it. They also pointed out that law enforcement officials lack adequate training on recognizing drowsy driving on the road. When crashes occur, drivers may not always report their drowsiness. Unlike alcohol and drugs, there are no clear tests to show drowsiness as a cause of impairment.
As experts continue to develop suggestions for solutions, they reminded drivers everywhere to be responsible about getting enough sleep and to avoid driving when they are too tired to do so safely. Being able to recognize the signs of drowsiness is important. Drowsiness can be more than just the eyelids feeling heavy. People may not even realize that their reactions are impaired when they lose a few hours of sleep each night. The American Sleep Foundation identifies these as the other top warning signs of drowsy driving:
- Difficulty focusing on the road and blinking frequently.
- Difficulty remembering the past few miles driven or missing important signs and exits.
- Continual daydreaming or wandering thoughts.
- Repeatedly yawning or feeling the need to rub the eyes.
- Drifting out of the lane, getting too close to other vehicles or hitting a shoulder strip.
- Feeling irritable, becoming restless or having difficulty keeping the head up.
According to research in the report, teens and young adults face the highest risk of drowsy driving crashes. These age groups cause more than 50 percent of all drowsy driving accidents each year. Also, people who work irregular, long or late shifts are more likely to be in these accidents. More than 40 million Americans have sleep disorders, and they are also at a higher risk of causing an accident. To learn more about drowsy driving and how to prevent it or report it, talk with your HALO insurance agent, 314-351-HALO (4256).