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Lane-Drift Accidents Often Linked to Drowsiness, Drug Abuse

Many accidents that are caused when a vehicle veers out of its lane and hits another car are believed to be the result of motorists being sleep deprived, driving under the influence alcohol or drugs, or suffering a serious medical condition. A new study confirms this.

According to a new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, incapacitation was the key factor in approximately 34% of lane-drift accidents studied as part of the research. Incapacitation here refers to a motorist dozing off while sleeping, blacking out in a medical emergency, or passing out under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

The research focused on approximately 630 lane-drift accidents that occurred between 2005 and 2007, and found that in approximately 17% of the accidents, the driver fell asleep at the wheel just before the accident. In another 17% of the crashes, the driver either blacked out at the wheel due to drug or alcohol use, or suffered a medical emergency like diabetic shock, seizure or heart attack.

When the researchers focused on accidents that resulted in serious injuries or fatalities, they found that approximately 21% of 124 lane-drift accidents involved drivers who were asleep, and another 21% involved drivers who were incapacitated due to drug or alcohol use or a medical emergency. The researchers also found that lane-drift accidents are the result of poor control by the driver, distraction, and drunk driving as well as other physical factors.

These are interesting findings because many newer technologies focus on accidents that are caused as a result of lane departures. These so-called lane departure warning systems specifically warn a driver when he is in danger of moving out of his lane by a visible or audible alert to the driver.  This technology has been shown to save lives and will hopefully be mandated in the future for all vehicles.