Drowsy Driving Statistics

Drowsy Driving Statistics - The Dangers of Fatigued Driving

Updated Dec. 14, 2020

Most people accept being tired as a normal part of their hectic, day-to-day lives. Tiredness rarely prevents us from fulfilling our regular daily tasks, such as working, going to school or seeing our friends, so we do not assume that it should stop us from driving to and from these activities. Sadly, driving while fatigued can be a fatal mistake.

Being tired does not compromise the safety of a person sitting at a desk or having lunch in a restaurant, though it very much endangers a person in charge of a moving vehicle – and every other road user nearby! A fatigued person cannot function at their best; vision, judgment and reaction time are all impeded. Experiencing these mild impairments while driving makes it much more likely you will be involved in an accident or collision. You do not necessarily have to fall asleep at the wheel to be injured or killed as the result of driver fatigue.

The impact of drowsy driving

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) crash statistics indicate that in 2015, roughly 90,000 crashes involved a drowsy driver. Of these crashes:

  • 56,000 resulted in property damage only
  • 33,000 resulted in at least one person being injured
  • 736 resulted in at least one fatality

The drowsy drivers involved in these incidents were either asleep at the wheel or known to be driving while sleepy or fatigued. This is according to their own statements or the statement of another person who witnessed their condition prior to the crash.

Without such statements, it can be extremely difficult to determine whether the driver was fatigued when the collision occurred, especially if they did not live to tell the tale. Frighteningly, that means that these figures represent a minimum number of crashes that can be attributed to driver fatigue in 2015. The true number of injuries and deaths caused by tired drivers is likely to be much higher.

Studies have shown that being awake for 18 hours – which is not an uncommon occurrence for many people – can affect a person’s driving ability as much as a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08%. Driving safely when fatigued is impossible, even for the most skilled and responsible drivers out there. The more fatigued you become, the poorer your reaction time will be and the less likely you are to see hazards on the roadway in time to act.

Operating a vehicle while tired at any time of the day is dangerous, though fatigue presents a substantially greater risk to motorists and other road users at night. Even if you feel relatively alert and are dosed up on coffee, you will be fighting your body’s instinctive desire to sleep, simply because it is dark. Driving at night requires a greater degree of alertness and concentration than driving during the day, as visibility is poorer and the presence or fatigued or drunk drivers on the road is more likely. If you yourself are tired, your ability to spot and react to these night time driving hazards will be severely limited.

The dangers of driving while fatigued are significant and complex. Fortunately, the cure for driver fatigue is simple: as soon as you realize you are not as alert as you should be, pull your vehicle over to a safe spot and get some rest!

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Natural Causes of Fatigue and Drowsiness
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The Causes of Fatigue

Being fatigued does not necessarily mean feeling sleepy, though it can lead to that. The term “fatigue” describes a mental and physical state which can occur following a challenging or prolonged activity. A person who is fatigued has a lower-than-normal capacity for work and concentration, while being less capable of completing any task efficiently.

Fatigue Risk Factors
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Fatigue Risk Factors

Understanding the risk factors that increase your chances of becoming drowsy will help you to make sensible driving decisions. If you know you are at risk, you are more likely to be tuned in to your physical and mental state while driving. When you notice the symptoms of fatigue taking hold, you can take steps to maintain your safety.

The Consequences of Driving Fatigue
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The Consequences of Drowsy Driving

When fatigued, a person cannot perform as well as they would usually during any task. When the task in question is maneuvering a large, heavy metal object that is hurtling along a roadway at speed, persevering despite the effects of fatigue invites death and destruction.

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Approaches to Multitasking

Multitasking while driving is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, the best drivers are those who can multitask effectively. Of course, we are not talking about doing your make-up, texting on your cell phone or chatting to your passengers while driving; engaging in any activity that unnecessarily takes your attention away from the road is definitely a bad idea!

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The Physical Challenges of Driving

Most modern vehicles can be operated with relative physical ease, thanks to power brakes and power steering. The challenges associated with driving are predominantly mental challenges, such as perceiving hazards on the roadway or managing multiple tasks at the same time. Though, in some vehicles and situations, driving can still be a physically demanding activity.

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Physical and Mental Impairments

Your physical and mental condition has a direct affect on your ability to manage and execute multiple tasks while driving. Persons with physical or mental disabilities may lack the necessary skills to operate a vehicle safely.

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Illness and Temporary Impairments

Driving ability can be equally as impeded by a temporary physical or mental impairment as it is by ongoing medical conditions and permanent physical disabilities. Every person experiences an illness or injury at some time or another; the fact that you are usually fit to drive does not meant that you are always fit to drive.

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Safe Driving and Aging

Getting older does not necessarily mean that you are no longer fit to drive. According to Federal Highway Administration statistics, there are more than 41 million licensed drivers in the United States aged 65 or older. Unfortunately, the physical and mental changes associated with natural aging can adversely affect driving skills and increase the risk of being injured or killed in a car crash.

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Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Unintentional carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is responsible for roughly 500 fatalities and 15,000 emergency room visits around the United States every year. A large portion of these poisoning cases are caused by motor vehicle exhaust emissions. All drivers must be aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning and be able to spot the symptoms when it occurs.