Drowsy driving is one of the most underestimated causes of accidents, especially since it’s difficult to determine exactly how many motorists dozed off at the wheel just before the car wreck.However, one fact is clear.These accidents are much more widespread and common than believed, and the number of people being killed in these crashes is much higher than the official estimates.A new study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute seems to confirm that fact.
The naturalistic study which focused on 100 cars involved in accidents, found that driving under the influence of fatigue contributed to as many as 20% of all accidents.Earlier estimates had pegged that number at just 2-3% of all accidents.
The naturalistic study is believed to be one of the first times that this major accident factor has been studied in depth, and in a naturalistic environment.The study found that drivers 18- 20 years of age had some of the highest risks of being involved in drowsy driving accidents, accounting for more accidents than any other age group.
Sleep experts have determined that teenagers may be at a much higher risk of sleep deprivation because of biological changes in their sleep patterns.Changes in sleep patterns cause persons who enter their teens to sleep later than usual, which means that the teenager is getting an insufficient amount of sleep.These bad sleep habits continue while the person grows into his teen years, and enters early adulthood.
At the other end of the spectrum are older drivers, who also seem to be at a high risk of fatigue-related accidents.Among these people, sleep deprivation is the result of late-night shifts and early work times.Older drivers may also be on more than one medication, and these drugs may interact with each other, causing drowsiness.
However, the most disturbing fact that emerged from the study was that drowsy driving is such a frequent and common factor in accidents.Most drowsy driving-related accidents seem to involve people who found their judgment impaired, or their reflexes slowed as a result of extreme drowsiness.Many drowsy driving-related accidents also seem to occur in the daytime, and not at night.In fact, the study found that most of these accidents occurred during the day.