Drowsy driving may be more prevalent than we thought

Published Feb 21, 2018 at 4:00pm

Today comes word from AAA that there is a driving hazard we all should be paying attention to.

The auto club studied dashboard video from 700 accidents and found that 9.5 percent of all crashes involved drowsy drivers, based on the amount of time the drivers’ eyes were closed in the minutes before a crash.

That portion climbs to 10.8 percent in the most severe crashes.

“Drowsy driving is a bigger safety issue than federal estimates show,” said David Yang, AAA Foundation’s executive director. “Drivers who don’t get enough sleep are putting everyone on the road at risk.”

The study is at odds with federal estimates, which suggest drowsiness is a factor in only 1 or 2 percent of crashes.

Travelers on the Thruway know the problem, hours of watching farmland rolling by, punctuated only by the occasional deer or fellow travelers.

We try drinking coffee, downing energy drinks, rolling down the window and singing, but those are poor substitutes for the real thing needed: Rest.

“Don’t be fooled,” said William Van Tassel, AAA’s manager of driving training. “Your body’s need for sleep will eventually override your brain’s attempts to stay awake.”

About 35 percent of U.S. drivers sleep less than the recommended seven hours per night, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And, 96 percent of drivers surveyed told the AAA Foundation that drowsy driving is a serious threat, but 29 percent admitted doing it in the previous month. Drowsy drivers are a major problem. For everybody’s safety, we should make sure we’ve had enough sleep.