Study confirms drowsy driving statistics are vastly underestimated

A recent study has found that drowsy driving is many times more common than federal figures suggest.

A recent study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has confirmed what many safety experts had long suspected, that federal statistics vastly underestimate the prevalence of drowsy driving. As CNN reports, whereas federal statistics list drowsiness as a factor in about two percent of all motor vehicle accidents, the recent AAA study shows that closer to 10 percent of crashes are caused by drowsiness or sleepiness. Because the AAA study used in-car cameras and did not rely on post-crash police reports, it is generally considered to be more accurate than federal figures.

Why official figures are so off

Drowsy driving can be a notoriously difficult problem to track. Obviously, when people are involved in a crash, they are rarely willing to admit that they were driving while they were tired. Furthermore, in accidents where the driver was killed, it can be impossible to learn if he or she was driving drowsy. Federal statistics on drowsy driving are based on police reports, which aren't a reliable way of measuring the problem. As a result, federal statistics suggest just one to two percent of all crashes in the country are caused by drowsy driving, a figure that safety experts have long known vastly underestimates the scope of the problem.

To get around this issue of reliability, the AAA study used in-car cameras to monitor over 3,500 participants throughout the country between October 2010 and December 2013. The study was the first to utilize the PERCLOS measure, which calculates a driver's drowsiness by the percentage of time their eyes are closed. PERCLOS is considered to be a reliable measure of determining sleepiness and lack of attention.

How prevalent is drowsy driving?

During the course of the study, the researchers were able to analyze 701 accidents. Using the PERCLOS measure and in-car video footage, they determined that drowsiness was at least a contributing cause of 8.8 to 9.5 percent of all crashes. For crashes that resulted in injury, significant property damage, or airbag deployment, then drowsiness was a factor 10.6 to 10.8 percent of the time.

In other words, drowsy driving is likely far more prevalent a cause of accidents than official figures suggest. That startling conclusion is hardly surprising given the dangers inherent in dangerous driving. As Forbes reports, the researchers noted that losing just two to three hours of sleep the night before can increase one's crash risk by a factor of four, which is about the same as driving drunk.

Personal injury law

For those who have been hurt in an accident, the following days and weeks can be challenging and confusing. A personal injury attorney can assist crash victims during this often bewildering time. By talking to an attorney today, victims will have an advocate on their side who can help them pursue whatever compensation they may be entitled to.