A 2009 poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation reports that in the last year, up to 1.9 million US motorists have either been in a motor vehicle accident or were nearly in an auto collision because they were drowsy while driving. 105 million motorists admitted that they’ve driven while sleepy in the last year, while 54 million drivers say they drowsy drive at least once a month.
What many of these drivers don’t understand is that drowsy driving is extremely dangerous. It one of the most common causes of traffic crashes. The National Transportation Safety Board says that 250,000 US drivers a day fall asleep while operating a vehicle. This causes 60,000 serious injuries and 8,000 deaths a year.
Boston car crashes, truck accidents, bus collisions, and pedestrian accidents are not the only kinds of traffic collisions caused by drowsy driving. The NTSB recently announced that drowsy driving was the likely cause of the deadly MBTA train crash in Newton last year involving two green line trains. The safety board says train operator Terese Edmonds may have fallen asleep at the wheel. She may have been suffering from obstructive sleep apnea.
Excessive sleepiness can impair a motorist, resulting in slower reaction times, distracted driving, decreased cognitive performance, various mood swings, and slowed reflexes. These side effects can prove tragic on the road, where a motorist may have a hard time driving in a straight line, fail to notice exit signs, miss traffic signs, and not realize that he or she is tailgating the vehicle ahead.
While it is tragic that so many people are injured in motor vehicle crashes caused by drowsy drivers, the good news is that drowsy driving accidents are preventable.
The National Sleep Foundation has declared November 2-8 Drowsy Driving Prevention Week. The intention is to make more motorists aware about the dangers associated with drowsy driving and falling asleep at the wheel.
1.9 Million Drivers Have Fatigue-Related Car Crashes or Near Misses Each Year, Reuters, November 2, 2009
Drowsy-driving tragedies preventable, Boston.com, August 3, 2009
Related Web Resources:
National Sleep Foundation