AAA study concludes nearly 10% of wrecks involve drowsy drivers

Sleepiness makes drivers in Texas nearly as dangerous as drunk drivers. Attributing crashes to tired drivers has been difficult, but the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety used a unique approach to gather data. Over 3,500 people participated in the study, which required the installation of cameras and other equipment in their vehicles. Researchers monitored data from each subject for several months, and when crashes occurred, they looked at the surveillance footage to see what the drivers had been doing.

After reviewing data from 701 recorded car accidents, they concluded that drowsiness played a role in 8.8 percent to 9.5 percent of the crashes. This far outstripped the modest estimates from federal agencies that have linked drowsiness to only 1 percent to 2 percent of all accidents.

Unlike drunk driving, which police can detect with breath tests, law enforcement has almost no way to know if a driver was drowsy unless a person admits to it. Insufficient sleep, however, takes a toll on a person's ability to watch the road. A study from 2012 reported that people function as if they have a blood alcohol level of 0.05 if they have been awake for 17 to 19 hours. After 20 to 25 hours without sleep, a person becomes fully impaired with reaction times equivalent to having a blood alcohol content of 0.1.

Drowsiness could represent negligence because people have a responsibility to operate their vehicles safely. A person hurt in a crash caused by someone else could discuss how to make a personal injury claim with an attorney who has experience with motor vehicle accidents. When necessary, a lawyer could seek evidence to show how long the other driver had been awake. An attorney might also consult an independent crash investigator to document more details. This information could support a lawsuit that pursues compensation for the victim.

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