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Drowsy driving becoming major factor in automobile crashes

A cause of crashes on roadways all across the country that has been gaining a lot of attention as of late is drowsy driving.

Drivers operating their vehicles without adequate sleep are to blame for thousands of crashes on an annual basis and the cost to the average American is staggering.

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, a recent study suggests that the societal cost of drowsy driver crashes involving injury or death is $109 billion annually.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 100,000 police-reported crashes are the direct result of driver fatigue every year, resulting in an estimated 1,550 deaths and 71,000 injuries, nationwide.

The GHSA explained that it is tough to decipher whether or not driving while drowsy is the cause of crashes, as the percent of crashes caused by sleep-deprived motorists varies vastly, from anywhere between two and 20 percent of all crashes.

“There are challenges associated with both measuring and combating drowsy driving,” said GHSA Executive Director Jonathan Adkins, who oversaw the development of the report. “Law enforcement lack protocols and training to help officers recognize drowsy driving at roadside. And if a crash occurs, the drowsy driver may not report the cause due to concerns about monetary and other penalties.”

There are certain age groups that are more prone to driving while drowsy and the State Highway Safety Offices are creating plans to fight against sleepy motorists.

“Teens and young adults are involved in more than half of all drowsy driving crashes annually,” Adkins said. “People who work nights or long or irregular shifts are also more likely to get behind the wheel when they are too tired to drive, along with the estimated 40 million Americans who suffer from a sleep disorder.”

GHSA’s report compares various hours a person lacks in sleep to having a certain amount of drinks while being behind the wheel.

Someone who has gone 18 hours without sleep is said to have similar driving traits of someone who has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .05 percent. Go 21 hours without sleep and that clocks in at being comparable to a .08 percent BAC, which is the legal limit in all states. If a person goes a full 24 hours without sleep and drives, they have traits like a person with a .10 percent BAC.

NDOT reported that the number one reason fatal crashes occurred in Nye County was due to drivers going off the side of the roadway. Those crashes made up 26 percent of all fatal crashes.

That was followed by driving left of center at 15 percent, and both failing to maintain lane and over-correcting steering at 14 percent.

NDOT reported then that four percent of those drivers were fatigued or sleepy.

After breaking down the accidents in a statewide comparison, NDOT found that overall, automobile accidents in the state were up at the time of the comparison, which was between April 12, 2014 and April 12, 2015.

Although there are no standardized tests to determine if someone is driving drowsy, NDOT urges motorists to be safe on the road, and not to drive if you’re lacking sleep.

“Drowsy driving is a serious safety issue. Sleep deprivation can mimic blood alcohol concentration,” said Tony Illia, NDOT spokesperson. “Remember, sleep is crucial to safe driving and overall health. Recognize the warning signs of drowsiness before it’s too late. Arrive alive.”

Contact reporter Mick Akers at makers@pvtimes.com. Follow @mickakers on Twitter.

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