A new study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety using footage of drivers found that more drivers are too tired when they get behind the wheel, boosting the chances of crashes.
AAA says 10 percent of crashes in the country are linked to drowsy driving—a number that is nearly eight times higher than past government estimates.
Using in-vehicle dashcam video from more than 700 crashes, researchers examined video of drivers’ faces in the three minutes before a crash.
According to AAA, the study showed that 9.5 percent of all crashes involved drowsiness. Federal estimates indicate drowsiness is a factor in only one to two percent of crashes.
“Drowsy driving is a bigger traffic safety issue than federal estimates show,” said Dr. David Yang, executive director for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “Drivers who don’t get enough sleep are putting everyone on the road at risk. By conducting an in-depth analysis using video of everyday drivers, we can now better assess if a driver was fatigued in the moments leading up to a crash.”
In a recent survey by AAA, 96 percent of drivers interviewed said they viewed drowsy driving as a serious safety threat, but 29 percent admitted to driving when they were so tired they had a hard time keeping their eyes open at some point in the past month.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that 35 percent of U.S. drivers sleep less than the recommended minimum of seven hours daily.
Experts say getting four or less hours of sleep a night and then driving can more than quadruple a risk for a crash and have the same effect as drunken driving.
If you’re feeling sleepy while driving, AAA says drinking coffee or rolling down the window may seem like the thing to do, but the effects will only be short-term. There is no substitute for sleep.
AAA recommends that drivers should travel at times when they’re normally awake. For longer trips, drivers should take breaks every two hours or 100 miles and if possible and travel with someone who can take turns driving.
A quick nap at a rest stop of at least 20 minutes, but no longer than 30 minutes, can help keep drivers alert.
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