Study: Drowsy driving linked to 21 percent of traffic fatalities

A recent study indicates that thousands of people die every year due to a drowsy driver.

According to Ohio and Kentucky law, it is illegal for anyone to get behind the wheel of a vehicle while fatigued. The statute notes that it is a misdemeanor when someone's exhaustion is so severe that it impedes on his or her alertness and makes driving unsafe.

The law is in place for good reason, as drowsy driving is responsible for numerous accidents, injuries and even deaths every year. A recent study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety backs up that point.

The study

The organization sought to review how drowsy driving plays a role in a number of incidents. Researchers used data from the years 2009 to 2013, evaluating approximately 14,268 motor vehicle accidents. The key findings indicate that a drowsy driver was associated with the following:

  • 21 percent of the fatal accidents
  • 13 percent of incidents that resulted in a hospitalization
  • 7 percent of crashes that involved someone needing treatment for injuries
  • 6 percent of accidents in which a vehicle had to be towed

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety then extrapolated those percentages to determine that approximately 6,400 fatal car wrecks can be attributed to a drowsy driver every year. Additionally, drivers who are fatigued are responsible for roughly 109,000 injury-inducing accidents annually.

These numbers are slightly higher than the results that came from the foundation's previous study that evaluated crashes between 1999 and 2008. Those findings indicated that drowsy driving was associated with just 17 percent of traffic fatalities.

Preventing drowsy driving

One of the most important ways to prevent driving while exhausted is to recognize the signs. The National Sleep Foundation warns that people who cannot remember the last few miles driven or whose eyelids feel heavy are likely too fatigued to be behind the wheel. Additionally, someone who continually hits the rumble strips or misses traffic signs and exits should pull over to prevent an accident from occurring.

Another way to avoid the problem is to plan ahead. People who are going to take long road trips should stop every few hours or 100 miles to get out of the vehicle and move around a little. Having another person in the car who can take turns driving can also minimize the risk of someone becoming too tired to drive.

Lastly, getting enough sleep every night is important, especially for people who spend long hours on the road. Experts recommend getting seven to eight hours of shuteye every night.

Unfortunately, drowsy driving incidents continue to occur and harm people, despite the prevention efforts in place. People who have concerns about this issue should consult with an attorney at Gregory S. Young Co., LPA. The firm represents people from both Ohio and Kentucky.