Truckers may be professionals behind the wheel, but their biology is the same as other Americans who are sacrificing sleep—and that too often leads to tragic consequences on our roadways, according to a new report from the Governors Highway Safety Assn. (GHSA).
Wake Up Call! Understanding Drowsy Driving and What States Can Do, points out that nearly 83.6 million sleep-deprived Americans are driving every day. And it’s taking a toll – an estimated 5,000 lives were lost in drowsy driving-related crashes last year. The report was funded through a grant from State Farm with guidance from an expert panel.
The danger posed by tired drivers has prompted the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to expand its definition of impaired driving to include not only drunk, drugged and distracted, but also drowsy. In a newly available NHTSA estimate provided to GHSA for this report, the agency reveals the annual societal cost of fatigue-related fatal and injury crashes is $109 billion, not including property damage.
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The GHSA report, which comes as U.S. motor vehicle deaths were up 7.7 percent nationwide in 2015, examines the cause and effect of drowsy driving as well as how states and others can best address it. Additionally, it discusses legislative, enforcement, education, and engineering countermeasures being employed as well as in-vehicle technologies that are available today or on the horizon.
To help State Highway Safety Offices (SHSOs) address the behavioral side of drowsy driving and develop strategies to combat it, the report explores the crash characteristics and drivers who are most at risk. “Teens and young adults are involved in more than half of all drowsy driving crashes annually,” pointed out Adkins. “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.
That, said report author Pam Fischer, merits a change in how we view sleep. “Sleep is a restorative and life-sustaining activity that is just as important as eating right and exercising. When we skimp on sleep, we’re less able to react quickly – a critical element of safe driving. Our mental and physical health also suffers.”
The report recommends SHSOs partner with other sectors, including public health, business, academia, and nonprofits, to change the culture. “Just like drunk driving and seat belts, it’s going to take all of us to get the public to recognize the seriousness of drowsy driving,” stressed Fischer.