Study: One out of ten crashes may be due to drowsy driving

A recent study says that drowsy driving accidents are up to ten times more common than previously believed.

According to official government figures, drowsy driving is behind just one to two percent of all car crashes. However, experts have long believed that figure vastly underestimates the prevalence of drowsy driving. Now, thanks to the most in-depth study into drowsy driving ever performed, researchers have a much better idea of just how drastically official statistics do underestimate the problem. As CNBC reports, that study found that about ten percent of car accidents involve drowsy driving, a rate that is five to ten times higher than government estimates.

Tracking the drowsy driving problem

It has long been assumed that drowsy driving was a leading cause of motor vehicle accidents due to numerous surveys that indicated too many Americans drive while fatigued. As CNN reports, one study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that a third of U.S. adults regularly get fewer than seven hours of sleep per night. Another 2012 study found that driving after having missed two to three hours of sleep is as dangerous as driving while intoxicated by alcohol. Another survey found that 29 percent of drivers had driven at least once in the previous month while having trouble staying awake.

Studies such as those lead most experts to conclude that official statistics showing drowsiness is a factor in just one to two percent of crashes must be a vast underestimate. Government statistics rely almost entirely on police reports for their data. Since there is no Breathalyzer-type device to measure drowsiness and drivers who cause a crash due to being tired are unlikely to admit being tired to police, that makes police reports an unreliable source of information for tracking drowsy driving.

Measuring the extent of drowsy driving

To get a more accurate idea of how extensive drowsy driving may be, researchers at the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety installed dashboard cameras in the cars of 3,500 study participants. The cameras allowed researchers to measure the percentage of time drivers closed their eyes for, which has been shown to be an accurate way of measuring fatigue.

That study found that drowsiness was a factor in 8.8 to 9.5 percent of all accidents and a factor in 10.6 to 10.8 percent of serious accidents (i.e., those that led to significant property damage, injuries, or airbag deployment). At those rates, drowsy driving-related crashes may be five to ten times more common than government statistics currently show.

Help after an accident

An accident, especially if it causes injury, can be a devastating experience for victims. Fortunately, in most cases accident victims do have the right to pursue financial compensation to help them cover some of the costs associated with their recovery. A personal injury attorney can show clients what compensation may be available to them and how to go about making a claim.