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February 12, 2018

A recent study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that the road danger posed by drowsy drivers is much higher than before believed. The study, which was released last Thursday, was compiled using data gathered from over 3,500 individuals throughout the US from October of 2010 until December of 2013. These individuals all agreed to have cameras placed within their cars as well as other recording equipment, and during the course of the study 701 car crashes were recorded and then examined.

The method of gathering data in the study relied heavily on the PERCLOS technique. A method of measuring the amount of time that a person has their eyes closed, PERCLOS was used by the researchers to gauge how sleepy any individual driver was at any given moment. Especially helpful when going through post-crash data, the PERCLOS technique allowed investigators and researchers to determine with greater accuracy whether or not a driver involved was drowsy or distracted in the moments before the accident occurred.

The data from these accidents revealed that drowsy driving accounted for between 8.8% and 9.5% of all the accidents recorded. In addition to these statistics, the study found that between 10.6% and 10.8% of accidents that included airbag deployment, injury, and property damage were the result of drivers nodding off at the wheel.

Brian Tefft, one of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s senior researchers, noted in the foundation’s official statement that up until this point the US government had used statistics that put the percentage of accidents due to drowsy driving at between 1% and 2%. While many researchers involved in crash reconstruction teams and investigations have seen these statistics as incorrect, the government still pushed the 1%-2% story as the most current data. With the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s new report, we need to rethink the danger posed by driving while sleepy.

While alcohol related accidents and accidents due to cell phone usage still account for a greater number of the total crashes throughout the country, the prevention of drowsy driving, as this recent report shows, should receive greater attention. Due to the notorious difficulty in determining whether or not a driver involved in an accident was asleep or nodding off, drowsy driving has posed a significant challenge to investigators working to unravel particular cases. The facts, however, show that after staying awake between 17-19 hours, the human brain operates similarly to how it does on a BAC of 0.05. When sleep deprivation rises to 20-25 hours, the brain acts as though BAC is at 0.1 (well above the current legal limit or 0.08). These are important factors to consider when allocating enough time into your day for rest, as the only true way to fight drowsy driving is by getting enough sleep.

James O. Cunningham

Since 1977, personal injury lawyer James Cunningham has provided effective legal advocacy to people who are injured through the negligent actions of another person or entity throughout the Central Florida area. He fights to obtain recoveries for his clients’ physical and emotional pain and suffering and pursues his clients’ personal injury cases with a commitment to excellence and impeccable preparation.

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