Drowsy Driving and U.S. Traffic Deaths

The National Highway and Traffic Administration (NHTSA) states that it is making further efforts to reduce drowsy driving, which accounts for a significant percentage of U.S. traffic deaths.

NHTSA states that drowsy driving leads to thousands of automobile crashes per year. Sleepiness causes crashes because it impairs performance and can lead to the inability to resist falling asleep at the wheel. Impairments associated with sleepiness include reaction time, vigilance, attention and information processing. These same deficits are consistent with those associated with drunk driving.

Unlike alcohol related crashes no blood, breath or other measurable test is available to measure fatigue or sleepiness. There are common factors with fatigue caused crashes, such as a single vehicle leaving a roadway and crashes that occur on high speed roads.

Those at highest risk are ages 16-29, primarily men, shift workers who work long hours, or at nights, and those with untreated sleep disorders. Additional risks involve use of sedating medications, and consumption of alcohol, which interacts with and adds to drowsiness.

Contermeasures are obvious and need to be publicized, helpful remedies include public education, getting sufficient sleep, not drinking alcohol when sleepy, taking naps, and consumption of caffeine.

When work shifts preclude normal nighttime sleep then planning the times and environment to obtain restorative sleep should become a workplace priority.