Forum Highlights Drowsy Driving Dangers
National Drowsy Driving Prevention Week, which ran from November 1 – 8 this year, brought together leading public health, sleep science, and government policies experts to discuss how to best save lives from the epidemic of drowsy driving.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) hosted a forum from November 4th through the 5th to promote public awareness about this crucial issue, discuss the latest research findings, and explore future initiatives designed to combat the problem.
“Asleep at the Wheel”
The forum, entitled “Asleep at the Wheel: A Nation of Drowsy Drivers,” began with remarks from NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind, Ph.D. and J. Stephen Higgins, Ph.D. from the NHTSA Office of Behavioral Safety Research. Participants and online viewers then heard from Jennifer Pearce, who was the elder sister of Nicole Michelle Lee – a victim of a fatal car accident in 2008 caused by a drowsy driver.
During the rest of the forum, the panelists covered emerging topics in drowsy driving, such as new vehicle technology, the need to balance research with action, obstacles with measuring drowsy driving, and the crucial need for greater public awareness about the life-threatening nature of driving while fatigued.
Fittingly, the National Drowsy Driving Prevention Week was the brainchild of the National Sleep Foundation (NSF). The NSF has long been a leading public health advocate that has taken the initiative to educate the public about the relationship between sleep and safety. The NSF encourages individuals to help spread the message by downloading its sleep awareness infographic and sharing it on social media using #Awake2Drive.
The infographic shares some tips on preventing drowsy driving and some frightening statistics. For example, according to the NSF, almost one-quarter of all U.S. adults have reported personally knowing someone who has fallen asleep at the wheel.
“Completely blind and completely deaf”
Drowsy driving has indeed become an epidemic. A study conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Study found that 31.5 percent of respondents became so sleepy behind the wheel that it was difficult to keep their eyes open. Of those, 3.5 percent said this was a regular occurrence. Additionally, 43.2 percent of drivers reported nodding off while driving at least once in their lifetime. Drivers who are between 19 and 24 years old comprise the largest portion of drowsy drivers and men are more likely than women to drive while fatigued.
Siobhan Kuhar, M.D., Ph.D., DABSM, who is the Medical Director at the Albany Regional Sleep Disorders Center recently presented at an evident during National Drowsy Driving Prevention Week. In the presentation, Dr. Kuhar explained that she is frequently asked to assess individuals who have caused a drowsy driving car accident and had their driver’s licenses suspended. Every one of these individuals reported feeling sleepy, yet had no idea what actually happened to cause the accident. The transition from drowsiness to sleep “occurs in a split second,” explained Dr. Kuhar.
“Now, imagine what this could mean if you’re behind the wheel of a car… The state of drowsiness itself is a significant impairment while driving and has been shown in several studies to be as dangerous as driving drunk. In driving performance testing, 17 hours of sustained wakefulness was equivalent to driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.05%.”
To put it another way, Dr. Kuhar quoted famed sleep physician Dr. William Dement, “At one moment we are awake, and can see and hear. A fraction of a second later we are asleep, and we are completely blind and completely deaf.”
If you’ve been involved in an auto accident in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Long Island, Queens or NYC, The Sanders Firm can explain your legal rights and options whether the crash was caused by a distracted, drowsy or drunk driver. To arrange a free and no-obligation consultation with accomplished NY car accident lawyers, call 1-800-FAIR-PLAY.
- NHTSA, Asleep at the Wheel: A Nation of Drowsy Drivers, http://www.nhtsa.gov/nhtsa/symposiums/november2015/index.html
- SafeNY, Drowsy Driving & Fatigue, http://www.safeny.ny.gov/drow-ndx.htm
- AAA, Prevalence of Self-Reported Drowsy Driving, United States: 2015, https://www.aaafoundation.org/sites/default/files/PrevalenceOfSelf-ReportedDrowsyDrivingReport.pdf