Study: driving while fatigued more of a danger than previously thought

When you think of dangerous activities while driving, you may think of texting while driving or drunk driving. Although these activities are inherently dangerous, a new study from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute indicated that there is a danger that you may not think of-drowsy driving-that is more common that you may think.

The study was unique because of the fact that it was “naturalistic,” which means that the participants’ behavior was observed as it took place without interference from the study’s researchers.

For the study, the researchers collected data from 100 Washington, D.C. commuters by installing radar units, video cameras, lane-tracking software and instruments that measured the rate of acceleration in their cars. Ultimately, data was collected from 2003 to 2004 from a total of 232 drivers, as participants’ family members would sometimes also drive the car.

The drivers’ performance was collected in real time as he or she operated the motor vehicle. At the completion of the study, researchers reviewed about 110,000 events that included: 82
car accidents; 761 near-misses; 8,295 instances where the driver was involved in an incident caused by someone else (e.g. slamming on brakes because of slow traffic); and 1,423 instances where the driver caused an incident, but there was no danger to other drivers (such as running a red light when no one was around).

In addition to reviewing these events, researchers randomly reviewed 20,000 segments of footage and identified whether each one showed evidence of driver fatigue. From this data, researchers were able to estimate how often drivers were fatigued, but were not involved in a car accident or other incident.

Fatigue a common problem

From the data, researchers found that driver fatigue caused about 20 percent of the study’s car accidents. This was a surprising conclusion, as earlier research that was based on surveys and driver simulator studies, found that it was only a factor in about two percent of accidents.

The data also indicated that most drivers become fatigued during the day, instead the night. Although all age groups in the study suffered from fatigue from time-to-time, researchers observed that drivers between the ages of 18 and 20 are the most susceptible to it. The researchers explained this result by noting that drivers in this age group tend to stay up late and get up early to go to school or work, making them more prone to fatigue during the day.

The researchers also used the result of the study to estimate how prevalent drowsy driving is to drivers outside the study. From the data, it was found that driver fatigue causes about 12 percent of car accidents nationwide each year.

An attorney can help

As the study found that drowsy driving quadruples the risk of a car accident, it is a danger on par with texting while driving. Like
distracted driving, driving while drowsy can be considered negligence under New York law, which makes the driver financially liable for any damages, injuries or deaths he or she causes as a result.

If you or a loved one have been injured by a drowsy or inattentive driver, an experienced personal injury attorney can help you recover the compensation that you are legally entitled to.

  • American Association for Justice | Leaders Forum Patron 2015
  • Multi Million Dollar Advocates Forum
    Avvo Rating 10.0 Superb Top Attorney Slip and Fall