Driving While Drowsy—Dangerous As DWI?

November 20, 2012 by Mark Siesel

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has conducted numerous studies of drowsy driving over the last ten years, and the conclusion seems inescapable: Drivers who have not gotten enough sleep can be as dangerous as those driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs or both. NHTSA has determined that after a driver has been awake for 17 hours, his or her motor skills are affected similarly to a driver with a BAC of approximately 0.05%. This is the equivalent of a male weighing about 150 pounds drinking approximately 3 Margaritas over a two hour period!

In California, the Highway Patrol reported that in 2010, sleepy driving accounted for more than 3,600 accidents, 2000 injuries, and 32 fatalities. The NHTSA has determined that on an annual basis, falling asleep while driving leads to 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries, and more than 100,000 accidents. The National Sleep Foundation reports that 60% of adult drivers acknowledge having driving while feeling sleepy, (totaling 168 million people!), and more than a third of those drivers have fallen asleep.

Police officers look for these telltale clues to find drowsy drivers;

• Slow driving;
• Speeding up and slowing down;
• Driving onto the shoulder;
• Driving across lanes;
• Straddling lanes;
• Running red lights.

A review of this list clearly shows that the patterns of sleepy drivers are virtually identical to drivers who are intoxicated or under the influence of drugs. The problem is exacerbated this time of year with drivers on extended journeys for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s, who often leave early in the morning or late at night to avoid heavy traffic. Rolling down windows, turning up the radio or having a cup of coffee or other caffeinated beverage will not cause a drowsy driver to wake up, despite the myths about these techniques. Effective means of combating sleepy driving, if there are no passengers to share the driving responsibility, are to take a 15-30 minute nap, (which is actually better than a nap of 1-2 hours for changing brain chemistry), or to stretch their legs on a regular basis.

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The Three Most Common Errors Causing Teen Driver Accidents

May 28, 2011 by Mark Siesel

In a study published in the Accident Analysis and Prevention journal, it was reported that teen drivers are involved in four times as many fatal car crashes as adult motorists. Researchers reviewed data regarding 800 accidents with teen drivers and determined the three most common errors which were responsible for almost half of all the serious crashes:

1. A lack of scanning to find hazards, which led to 21% of the accidents;

2. Driving too fast for the traffic conditions, resulting in 21% of the crashes; and

3. Distracted driving (with text messaging a substantial percentage), leading to 20% of the accidents.

Surprisingly, factors including poor weather, vehicle malfunction, aggressive driving and drowsy driving were not found to be significant factors in most of the car accidents which were analyzed. According to the authors of the study, scanning surroundings far in front of the car and from side to side is a higher level skill that more seasoned drivers develop over many years.

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NHTSA Study Shows Safer US Drivers

April 5, 2011 by Mark Siesel

A recent study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicates that traffic deaths decreased to an all time low in 2010, in which 32,788 people were killed in auto crashes, a 3 % decrease from 2009. The drop in fatalities was surprising in light of the fact that there was an estimated increase of 20.5 billion miles driven in 2010.

There was also a decrease in the fatality rate, (calculated as deaths per 100 million miles driven) from 1.13 in '09 to 1.09 in 2010, the smallest fatality rate since the U.S. began recording this information in 1949. Traffic deaths have also dropped a full 25% since 2005, but the NHTSA has not yet determined the explanation for the significant decrease. What makes the drop so surprising is that distracted driving certainly seems to be on the increase, due to the huge increase in motorists testing while driving, speaking on their cell phones, adjusting GPS devices and attempting to multi-task in our increasingly fast moving society.

Without question, safer cars and more prevalent use of seat belts and the increase in the manufacture of cars with front and side air bags is certainly a factor in the drop.

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Study Shows Reduction In Teen Fatal Car Crashes

October 26, 2010 by Mark Siesel

The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released a new study with surprising results. Fatal car accidents involving teens steadily declined from 2004 through 2008, despite the increasing popularity and dangers of texting while driving and the numerous warnings of distracted driving on the nation's roadways. The number of fatalities dropped from approximately 2,200 in 2004 to roughly 1,400 in 2008. The study examined 16 and 17 year old drivers, who were involved in 9,600 accidents during the five year period, with more than 11,000 dying, including more than 4,000 of the teen drivers and in excess of 3,400 passengers.

Teen Fatalities have been declining since 1996, with the advent of safer vehicles equipped with air bags and highway improvements. The study also determined that non-fatal car crashes have dropped by 31% from 2004 through 2008. According to experts, another major reason for the decline in fatalities is that the majority of states are now enhancing restrictions on when teens can drive and when they can have passengers in their vehicles. A spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Russ Rader, noted that teens are not necessarily driving safer but "state laws enacted in the last 15 years are taking teens out of the most hazardous situations."

The CDC study revealed that Wyoming has the highest fatality rate, with approximately 60 16-17 year old driver deaths per 100,000 drivers that age. New York and New Jersey have the lowest rate, at about 10 per 100,000.

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Annual Fatal Car Crashes Nationwide Decrease For Fourth Straight Year

March 29, 2010 by Mark Siesel

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has reported that fatal car crashes have decreased for a fourth straight year since the statistical high in 2005. There were 33,963 motor vehicle fatalities in 2009, a decline of 8.9% from 2008 when there were 37,261 fatalities. The difference between 2008 and 2007 was even more dramatic, with 41,259 wrongful death accidents in 2007 reduced by 10.5 % in 2008. From 2005 to 2009, traffic fatalities dropped significantly, by approximately 22%. This is certainly attributable in part to the inclusion of driver and passenger side air bags in most vehicles as well as increased seat belt usage.

According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), vehicle miles increased by approximately 6.6 billion miles form 2008 to 2009, representing a 0.2 % increase. The fatality rate in 2009 was the lowest ever recorded, from 1.25 fatalities per million vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in 2008 to 1.16 fatalities VMT in 2009.

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NYSDOT-Westchester Local Roads More Dangerous Than Highways

December 10, 2009 by Mark Siesel

According to a New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) study conducted over the last several years, local roadways in Westchester County are much more dangerous than highways such as I-287 or I-95. The study looked at Westchester County fatal accidents, serious car crashes, and accidents per million miles traveled.

Route 1, which stretches from Pelham to Port Chester, is statistically the most dangerous road in Westchester County, with 9.65 accidents per million miles traveled (mmt). In second place as the road where motorists are most likely to be involved in a motor vehicle accident is Route 100B, between Dobbs Ferry and Greenburgh, with 8.65 accidents per mmt. Third most common was Route 119, from White Plains to Tarrytown, with 8.05 accidents per mmt.

Conversely, there were only 1.71 accidents per mmt on I-287 and 1.40 on I-95. The average on the Cross County Parkway was 2.65; Bronx River Parkway averaged 2.63 per mmt; the Hutchinson River Parkway was 1.61, and the Sprain Brook Parkway averaged 1.16 accidents per mmt. The safest road, (ironically concerning the speeds that drivers average on this highway), is I-684 with 0.83 accidents per mmt. This can probably be explained by the fact that 684 is a straight, wide and relatively level highway. The most dangerous small stretch of road in Westchester? The section of Route 9D near the Bear Mountain Bridge, with 13.4 accidents per mmt.

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Young Drivers Most Likely To Have Fatal Accidents

December 6, 2009 by Mark Siesel

In a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, (NHTSA), young drivers of either a car or motorcycle (age 15-20) are the most likely to have fatal car crashes in the United States. 15-20 year old drivers comprise 6% of all licensed drivers in the U.S. but had 19% of the fatal accidents in 2007. About two-thirds of people killed in fatal car crashes are the young drivers or their passengers. More than half of the fatal accidents occur on rural roadways. Motor vehicle crashes are the number one cause of death for 15-20 year olds based upon mortality data from the National Center For Health Statistics in 2005.

In 2007, young drivers were in 6,669 fatal accidents resulting in 7,650 deaths. There has been a 13% decrease in deaths involving young drivers from 1998 to 2007, with the peak being 9,251 fatalities in 2002. There are three main causes of the much higher percentage of young driver fatalities in this country: failure to wear a seat belt; alcohol involvement, and speeding. According to the study, overall seat belt use among all drivers is 82%, but among young drivers, it is 77%, and in fatal crashes in 2007, 61% were not wearing their seat belts. Regarding alcohol usage, 31% of young drivers involved in fatal accidents in 2007 had some alcohol in their systems, and 26% were over the legal limit of 0.08 percent (BAC).

31% of all fatal crashes in the United States are at least partially attributable to speeding. However, in 2007, a whopping 39% of male drivers age 15-20 killed in auto crashes were speeding when the accident occurred. Young female drivers age 15-20 accounted for 24% of all fatal crashes. Of all ages and genders of motorists, 15-20 year old males are the most likely to be speeding when a fatal car crash occurs.

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